In a web posting at the RIANovosti site, Russia is apparently going to launch research into nuclear engines for spaceships from 2010, according to the head of the country's Federal Space Agency. "Nuclear engines for spaceships are a very promising area. Such engines should be created to make flights to Mars and other planets, for example," Anatoly Perminov said.
Perminov earlier said the development of Megawatt-class nuclear space power systems (MCNSPS) for manned spacecraft was crucial for Russia if the country wanted to maintain a competitive edge in the space race, including the exploration of the Moon and Mars. He added that the draft design of spacecraft powered by a nuclear engine would be finalized by 2012, and the financing for further development in the next nine years would require an investment of at least 17 billion rubles (over US$580 million).
Anatoly Koroteyev, president of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics and head of the Keldysh research center, earlier stated that the key scientific and technical problem in sending manned missions to the Moon and Mars was the development of new propulsion systems and energy supplies with a high degree of energy-mass efficiency. The current capabilities of the Russian space industry are clearly insufficient either to set up a permanent base on the Moon or accomplish an independent manned mission to Mars, he said.