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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Fly me to the moon … in a Klyeeper!

Dale Amon is too busy to blog about this himself, but emails the rest of us with news about this, from Novosti:

Russia still leads the way in space exploration. Russia’s Clipper reusable spacecraft will be unveiled during the 2005 MAKS aerospace show in Zhukovsky near Moscow. This spacecraft, which is developed by the Energia corporation, will seat six people. The Clipper, which can fly to the moon, can also be used for reaching the Red Planet. This was disclosed to Izvestia by Anatoly Perminov, general director of Russia’s Federal Space Agency.

Quite where the Energia corporation now sits in the public-private spectrum, I do not know. I suspect that both state money (bad) and the desire for commercial gain (good) are involved here, a lot. But most of all, I suspect that the plain old-fashioned desire to (best of all) fearlessly and braving all dangers get out there and to courageously explore new frontiers and to ruthlessly (and whatever is the Russia equivalent) split infinitives, etc., is what is really going on.

Good for them. The Russians have not had much to cheer about lately. This kind of thing may be expensive, and “irrelevant”, no answer to poverty, blah blah, but it will surely make at least some of them a bit happier.

It makes me think of that moment in 10 Things I Hate About You, one of the recent-ish Hollywood products that I did like a lot despite these Hollywood moans, when, after a surprisingly successful date with the object of his affections, that young guy who was also in Third Rock from the Sun, thinks about it all, and then grins hugely and smacks his steering wheel with both hands and shouts: “And I’m back in the game!”

10 comments to Fly me to the moon … in a Klyeeper!

  • I wonder where the Russians currently fall on the value of the life of a cosmonaut. In the past, they’ve been willing to take more risks than we (the Americans) have, but so much has changed over there. Of course, the US space program has become paralyzed by an inability to risk even a single life. The perfect has become the enemy of the good enough and our bureaucracy has paralyzed us.

    Hopefully the Russians and the US private sector will pick up the ball.


  • “The Clipper, which can fly to the moon, can also be used for reaching the Red Planet.”

    What rot. This is something of a cross between the Soyuz and the Shuttle, nothing more. It’s five years away from even making a test flight, and certainly will never go to the moon, let alone Mars.

  • Jack Olson

    Fly six people to the moon? Fly to Mars? This sounds hard to believe.

    The reason the Russians lost the race to the moon is that the most practical way to fly there involved a lunar orbit rendezvous which minimized the necessary payload. Even at that, the Apollo spacecraft left much of their Lunar Excursion Modules on the moon and lifted off with just enough hardware to carry two astronauts and a hundred pounds of moon rocks.

    The second most practical method would involve an earth orbit rendezvous. The least practical method of all would be a direct flight earth-to-moon. Maybe the Russians have developed a spacecraft capable even of the latter.

    But, a flight to Mars? That would require months in space and the Martian gravity would be much harder to overcome than the moon’s. This extraordinary claim requires some good evidence.

  • There is a more technical description of the Clipper at the Encyclopedia Astronautica, which is a superb site with an incredible amount of information on the history of spaceflight. It takes a similar view to Sam L as to the craft’s capabilities – basically, it’s Soyuz: The Next Generation.

  • “The Clipper, which can fly to the moon, can also be used for reaching the Red Planet.”

    Simply add vodka and voila you’re there1

  • Daveon

    When they say “fly to the moon or mars”, they don’t mean by itself.

    It’s a crew transfer vehicle which could survive high speed atmospheric re-entry of the type that a return from the Moon or Mars would generate.

    There’s not a lot special in this, but they also have a good track record with equipment that handles long soak missions in space. Something a shuttle doesn’t.

    This is basically the CEV that the US is looking at to replace the Shuttle.

    The logical thing for government programmes would be for NASA to subcontract this to Energia.

  • Daveon

    The reason the Russians lost the race to the moon

    Is because they couldn’t get the plumbing nightmare that was the N1 to work and they couldn’t demonstrate that the Zond (translunar Soyuz) would get people back alive – if it had been simpler and worked, they probably would have got to the moon in the early 70s and the space race would have continued slightly longer. Ultimately they’d have run out of cash though.

    Most of the hardware was tested including the lander in orbit.

    By the early 80s the Russians had everything in place to do a moon landing and a Mars mission, had they had the money, with the Energia launcher – the Soviet Union collapsed before they could put all this together though.

    Using the Clipper and a “son of Energia” – a Mars mission would be “realitively” easy. They’ve the experience with long duration space craft, they’ve experience of building space station modules, they’ve got engines which can be restarted in space – the Mars lander would be the bit they haven’t got, but that’s not a massive issue.

  • Hmm. My personal experience of the Soviet/Russian space programme consists of a conversation with the father of my wife’s best friend, who drives satellites for a living from one of the little not-previously-on-maps towns outside Moscow.

    He’s past retirement age but still working because, he says, they can’t get qualified young people to do the job for the money, and since he doesn’t want “his” satellites dropping on people’s heads, somebody has to keep an eye on them.

    This suggests to me that the Russian space programme is like a lot of other Russian high-tech endeavours – a few highly qualified and dedicated people, with next to no funding, trying to hold things together with chewing gum and string. (And still achieving more than NASA?)

  • Dale Amon

    Yes, the point is it is part of a system and the Russians are very, very good at space. It also does indeed help that they have a more realistic view of risk… more like the view that americans used to have before the partial-nanny state and lawyer infestation got out of hand.

    I think part of the success are the very facts named above:

    * Space flight attracts some very bright and extremely committed people. “Will build spaceships for food” types of people.

    * they have been cash starved and had to make do and be creative.

    * They have had a more or less free hand to kill themselves with it hardly raising an eyebrow even though they are a state operation.

    * They have not had to worry about regulations and liability. Only the self interest of getting their friends back alive and their pride in the Rodina.

    Friends of mine have worked closely with the Russians on commercial ventures. There are difficulties, but by and large they are great people and they are totally committed to the space frontier.

  • Daveon

    My personal conviction is that Space Tourism and other private space endeavours could well be still born. I’m not remotely convinced that alone they’re the killer app that will bring about true space expansion and development. It’s a frontier that just needs too much cash.

    I’m on some panels at this year’s World SF Con in August on this very subject, apparently with somebody from XCORE – which could be interesting.

    The Russians have proved they can do space, they have low costs – the logical thing, if the infrastructure is going to need government and therefore tax payer cash is for this money to be spent on low cost sub-contract work from people who can delivery.

    I can see billions being poured into the VSE as nothing more than yet another welfare programme.