Russia Is Going to Build a Moon Base Manned by Avatar Robots: Report

A full moon is pictured in Mainz, southern Germany, on September 26. DANIEL ROLAND/AFP/Getty Images

The Russian space agency Roscosmos plans to have a technological system that sounds as if it's straight from a sci-fi film manage its recently announced lunar base.

Roscosmos revealed plans last week to establish the lunar base, with Russia aiming to land on the moon's surface within the next two decades. Now, agency administrator Dimitry Rogozin has explained that the system used to manage the long-term base will involve humans on Earth operating robot avatars on the moon.

"We're talking about creating a long-term base, not constantly manned, but visitable," Rogozin told state-run news agency RIA Novosti on Tuesday.

He added that the project will be larger than the U.S. Apollo program, Russian news channel RT reported. The Apollo program landed astronauts on the moon in the 1960s and early '70s across a series of missions.

While Rogozin didn't share any details of how the robotics system will work, the plans bring to mind James Cameron's blockbuster Avatar, which is set on Pandora—a lush, habitable moon of a gas giant in the Alpha Centauri star system populated by a humanoid race known as the Na'vi. To explore Pandora, scientists in the film use Na'vi-human hybrids known as "avatars," which are operated remotely.

Russia is aiming to land a cosmonaut on the lunar surface by 2030, but Rogozin didn't specify how much time it would be between the start of manned flights to the moon and the creation of a fully fledged base.

Rogozin told RIA Novosti that Roscosmos would explore the possibility of using lunar soil as a resource that could help 3D-print new parts and repair equipment, negating the need for costly resupplies from Earth.

Roscosmos has outlined a multistep plan toward landing cosmonauts on the moon. Its final stage envisages humans using local resources to set up the infrastructure of a moon base.

Leading up to the manned moon landing, the Russian space agency will conduct a series of missions preparing for the return of humans to the lunar surface.

One of these missions, called Luna 27, is being developed in collaboration with the European Space Agency (ESA). It will aim to send a lander to an unexplored area of the moon's South Pole.

NASA also has its sights set on the moon. The U.S. space agency is developing a plan for Americans to orbit the moon starting in 2023 and land astronauts on the surface no later than the late 2020s.

According to NASA, a key component of establishing the first permanent American presence and infrastructure on and around the moon is the Gateway, a lunar orbiting platform designed to host astronauts farther from Earth than ever before. This will be developed in collaboration with Roscosmos, alongside the ESA and the Japanese and Canadian space agencies.