The ITAR-TASS News Agency reported on Thursday that Russian officials are suggesting that there may be private sector involvement in the proposed lunar base being planned for the 2030s. Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin noted that possibility in an article published in Rossiiskaya Gazeta daily a few weeks ago. Corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics Andrei Ionin went even further by suggesting that a Russian moon base must be a purely private effort.
“It is difficult to imagine that some government will be prepared to spend trillions for creation of lunar bases, because they have a good deal of other, more vital tasks, including medicine, education, army.”
The idea of a lunar return having private sector participation is not unprecedented. Bigelow Aerospace suggested a lunar effort based on the COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems) model. The company has even suggested a system of private property rights on the moon to further commercial lunar development.
Russia is far more welcoming of capitalism than it was during the days of the Soviet Union. However private business is conducted slightly differently in Russia than in the West. It is very often a case of who you know trumping what you can do.
A case in point is the Sochi Olympics, a project that cost the Russian Federation roughly $50 billion, comparable to at least starting a lunar base. USA Today analyzed how Sochi worked, including the corruption, the kickbacks, the slipshod performance, and skimming of funds that characterized the run up to the winter games. Sochi was a private sector project, but only in the sense that would have caused many people to go to jail had it happened in the West,
A Russian lunar base would have far more potential for profit, of both the legitimate and dodgy kind, than the Sochi Olympics. Between resource mining and space tourism, many analysts and business leaders suggest that the moon could be transformed into a money maker. Private companies like Moon Express and Golden Spike have been formed as a bet on that very proposition. It may be only natural that Russia would want to get in on that, though perhaps in its own unique way.