Is Russia as developed as the USA

Race for the moon: the US is hurrying, and Russia?

The other day Israel almost rose to the top informal league of space powers. But the country did not succeed in landing on the moon with a probe after the USA, the USSR or Russia and China. The "Beresheet" space probe crashed due to engine problems. But the Israeli experiment shows that there is a "new race for the moon", as some observers say.

The United States won the first race half a century ago when American astronauts landed on the moon for the first time in July 1969. Now the US wants a moon landing again, and pretty quickly. At the end of March, Vice President Mike Pence commissioned the US space agency NASA to send Americans back to the moon within five years. If NASA is unable to do this, the US government will turn to private companies, Pence warned. He said the US would be in a race like it was in the 1960s. But with whom, he didn't say.

Mike Pence wants a moon landing in the next five years

Competition from China and Elon Musk

Ramon Lugo, director of the Florida Space Institute (FSI) at the University of Orlando, suspects that Pence was referring to the rivalry between the United States and China. According to the expert, China clearly has a lunar program. In addition, there is "a race in many technological areas" between the USA and China, according to Lugo. In January, the Chinese successfully landed a space probe on the far side of the moon for the first time.

Lugo, who worked for NASA for a long time, thinks it unlikely that Russia, despite its successful manned flights to the International Space Station (ISS), could be a rival to the US in opening up the moon. According to him, the US is in a way competing with itself in the "race for the moon". Because there is a race between NASA and private companies like SpaceX by Elon Musk.

Lugo believes Pence's plan to fly to the moon again by 2024 is too optimistic. He believes that astronauts will be able to fly into lunar orbit in the next five years, but will not land on Earth's satellite until around 2030. This could only be accelerated if NASA would use rockets from Elon Musk's private company for a flight to Mars. But the conditions on the moon and on Mars were different, according to the expert.

Will Russia take part in the race?

Andrei Ionin from the Russian Academy for Cosmonautics says that there is no such thing as a "race for the moon". The Pence declaration was "domestically motivated". The background is the preparation of his presidential candidacy for the year 2024 - even if Pence has not yet officially expressed such ambitions. The Russian expert does not rule out a US moon landing as a "one-off project" in the next five years. But neither Russia nor China would take part in the US-proclaimed "race for the moon". Moscow is neither financially nor technologically capable of doing this, said Ionin.

Nevertheless, lunar research continues in Russia. The four-month Sirius-19 experiment to simulate a moon flight has been carried out in Moscow since mid-March. Mainly Russian scientists are involved in it. And in 2021 the Russian space agency "Roscosmos" wants to send a series of automatic stations to the moon, as it did in Soviet times. The landing of cosmonauts is not planned for the 2030s at the earliest. Presumably they are supposed to fly there with the spaceship "Federazija", which is not finished yet - powered by the newly developed super-heavy rocket "Yenisey", which is scheduled to launch in 2028.

International Space Station (ISS) with the docked European science laboratory Columbus

Europe expects clear signals

Thomas Jarzombek, member of the Bundestag and coordinator of the federal government for aerospace at the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, would also not speak of a "race for the moon": "It is not that the Americans want to do this thing alone, Instead, it will be a great cooperation, like with the ISS, with Canada, Europe and Japan, "he explains in an interview with DW and adds:" We need an announcement from the USA on how to proceed ".

Vice President Pence didn't mention that. But the EU definitely wants to participate in the international NASA project "Gateway" to build a space station on the moon. The project is currently being planned. Russia is also showing interest. But at the end of last year, the head of "Roscosmos", Dmitrij Rogozin, declared that the Russian Federation did not want to participate in the project "in a secondary role".

After the end of the space shuttle program, the US has had no way of sending astronauts to the ISS on their own for almost ten years. You are dependent on Russian Soyuz missiles. But the Americans are working on a manned research spacecraft "Orion", with which NASA is linking its lunar plans. The first test flight was completed in 2014. The European Space Agency (ESA) developed a service module for "Orion" that is supposed to supply the spaceship with fuel and the astronauts with water and oxygen. It was mainly built in Germany. "It is a great success for us that we are supplying critical components to the Americans for the first time," said Jarzombek.