RUSSIA is plotting to send a nuclear-powered spacecraft to Jupiter in the latest twist in its space race with the United States.
According to state media, the country’s space agency Roscosmos said the 2030 mission would also incorporate trips to the Moon and Venus.
Concept image of a nuclear-powered Russian spacecraft released by the country’s space agency, RoscosmosCredit: Roscosmos
It will require the development of a new “space tug” that can carry equipment and possibly astronauts hundreds of millions of miles.
During a presentation in Moscow on Saturday, Roscosmos chief Alexander Bloshenko explained how the high-tech craft would work.
The vehicle’s energy module, named “Zeus”, would effectively work like a small nuclear power.
It’s designed to generate enough power to leg heavy cargo through deep space as breakneck speeds.
Russia is working on a nuclear-powered spaceship that will travel to JupiterCredit: Nasa
The flight would include trips to the Moon, then to Venus, then to Jupiter, Bloshenko told an audience at the New Knowledge forum, according to state-owned outlet Sputnik.
The total duration of the mission is expected to be more than four years, the site added.
The nuclear-powered tug, also known as the Transport and Energy Module (TEM), has been in development since 2010 in Russia.
In January 2020, Roscosmos announced its plans to launch the first nuclear-powered tug for testing in 2030.
The space agency estimates that the project will cost 4.2billion rubles ($57million).
A number of countries have their eyes on similar technology to help them complete long-distance flights through the cosmos.
A concept image of a Nasa spacecraft that would use nuclear propulsionCredit: Nasa
Spacecraft currently rely on gravity or solar power to carry out longer trips.
A manned journey to Mars and back using this technology would take as long as three years.
Nuclear-powered engines could shave a year off of this journey time, according to Nasa.
The US space agency hopes to put a small nuclear-power plant attached to a lunar lander on the Moon as early as 2027.
It’s part of an experiment to test out the fledgling technology. So far, Nasa has only sent one nuclear plant into space, on a satellite in 1965.
Russia, on the other hand, has sent dozens of plants into space.
According to Bloshenko, Roscosmos’ executive director for long-term programs and science, the space tug will first approach the Moon, where a spacecraft will separate from it, Russia news agency Tass reported.
What is the ISS?
Here’s what you need to know about the International Space Station…
- The International Space Station, often abbreviated to ISS, is a large space craft that orbits Earth and houses astronauts who go up there to complete scientific missions
- Many countries worked together to build it and they work together to use it
- It is made up of many pieces, which astronauts had to send up individually on rockets and put together from 1998 to 2000
- Ever since the year 2000, people have lived on the ISS
- Nasa uses the station to learn about living and working in space
- It is approximately 250 miles above Earth and orbits around the planet just like a satellite
- Living inside the ISS is said to be like living inside a big house with five bedrooms, two bathrooms, a gym, lots of science labs and a big bay window for viewing Earth
After that, it will journey to Venus, where it will deliver another spacecraft and slingshot around the planet using its gravitational pull.
The manoeuvre will send the craft towards Jupiter.
It’s the latest aggressive project announced by Roscosmos as tensions between the space agency and Nasa simmer.
Russia recently announced that it is ready to start building its own space station with the aim of launching it into orbit by 2030.
President Vladimir Putin still needs to give the project the go-ahead, Roscosmos said in April.
The scheme would mark a new chapter for Russian space exploration as it works to cut its reliance on the International Space Station.
It would bring an end to more than two decades of close cooperation with the United States aboard the orbiting lab.
Want to know more about the weird and wonderful world of science? From space and astronomy to the human body, we have you covered…
In other news, Nasa’s Perseverance rover has created breathable oxygen.
Th space agency recently completed the first controlled flight on another planet following the lift-off of its Mars helicopter-drone, Ingenuity.
And, the mystery surrounding what looks like giant spiders on the surface of Mars may finally have been solved.
What do you make of Russia’s space plans? Let us know in the comments!
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online Tech & Science team? Email us at [email protected]