A top Russian official on Tuesday proposed setting up a space station on the Moon to revive Moscow's struggling space programme, a day after the prime minister ripped into its failures.
Outspoken recently-appointed deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin, who is a former envoy to NATO, suggested the plan in an interview to Vesti FM radio station, saying that Russia's space agency should focus on a single goal.
"I would suggest that we work on solving one large task. Such a task could become the creation, let's say, of a Moon station, a Moon base," said Rogozin.
"Why not try to work in the conditions of microgravity? Why not try to do a big station that would be on a natural satellite of Earth?" he suggested, adding it could be "a base for further jumps and hops, a kind of hub."
He spoke a day after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev lashed out at the space industry, which has seen a series of humiliating failures, including losing 10 satellites in one and a half years and the crash of a Progress cargo ship last year.
Medvedev said the situation was "unacceptable" and warned the Russian space agency against "throwing (its funding) to the winds."
Rogozin said that such a moon programme would "pull science and industry after it" and "allow the country to pull itself out of the imprisonment in certain problems that we have been in for the last 20 years."
He blamed deep-seated problems for recent conspicuous failures, saying that the space programme lacked a clear focus.
"Russia must finally formulate what she wants from space. Define the aims, what we are trying to achieve," he said.
"If you look at the documents that have been prepared up to now in the space sphere, it looks as if we want to do all good things: fly there, and go here, and carry out piloted programmes on the International Space Station."
"In fact there is no architecture of values, no clear understanding of the game plan."
Russia is now the only country able to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station, but it has suffered failures, including last month losing two satellites after the unsuccessful launch of a Proton-M rocket.