Moscow: Landing missions to celestial bodies in the solar system will form the backbone of Russia`s space research programme in the coming decades, according to a Russian expert.
"We`ve found our direction, our niche," Lev Zelyony, director of the Institute of Space Research at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told reporters here Monday.
The Soviet Union has a track record of successfully landing unmanned probes on celestial bodies, including two moon rovers as well as a number of probes to Venus, an achievement that has not been reproduced since by any other space agency to date.
However, Russia`s space programme was largely halted after the Soviet Union`s collapse, though it is gradually being redeveloped on a smaller scale, Zelyony said.
Russia plans to send a succession of five unmanned probes to the Moon between 2015 and 2022, the latest set to retrieve samples of lunar soil.
Russia`s Federal Space Agency and the European Space Agency (ESA) would also jointly develop two unmanned Mars probes, said Rene Pischel, the head of ESA`s mission in Moscow.
The probes are set to launch in 2016 and 2018, and would study the planet`s atmosphere and map out traces of water, Pischel said at the press conference.
Another joint project would be an unmanned probe to Jupiter`s moon Ganymede, expected to launch in 2023, said Oleg Korablyov, who heads the planetary study department at the Institute of Space Research.
Longer-term prospects for the global space industry include a scientific research base on the Moon by the late 2030s or early 2040s, which would see periodic visits from human crews for maintenance, Zelyony said.