While NASA scrapes together money to get to Mars, and China slowly ramps up its space program, another spacefaring nation, Russia, has quietly been ferrying astronauts and cosmonauts to the International Space Station. But now it seems the Kremlin wants to be more than a low-orbit taxi. A leaked document from the Russian space agency Roscosmos outlines the nation's ambitious space exploration strategy until 2030. The plans include replacing the Soyuz rocket with the modular Angara next year; multiple plans to construct Russian space stations after the funding for the ISS ends in 2020; and landing men on the moon with the intent of establishing a lunar base sometime after 2025. Much of the program, which will be funded publicly and privately, is centered around building the infrastructure and expertise to carry out a manned Mars mission by 2050 — seemingly the current holy grail of space exploration.
But perhaps what's most intriguing about the document was how much the Russians were planning in secret. With funding for NASA a low priority for the US government, Russia could be poised to dominate modern space exploration if it funds its program properly. Either way, it will be interesting to see if the US takes the document seriously, and whether it will mean more cash flowing NASA's way. Who knows, we could have another space race on our hands.