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Russia's deputy prime minister wants to take over the moon

A 1963 Soviet poster celebrates Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space.
A 1963 Soviet poster celebrates Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space.
SSPL/Getty Images

Fresh off of Russia's annexation of Crimea, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has suggested expanding Russian territorial ambitions pretty dramatically — to the moon.

"We plan to go to the moon and to be there permanently," Rogozin said. He argued that Russia should have a permanent presence on the moon, from which it would mine moon resources (seriously) and command a broader space presence. It's not clear if Rogozin's plan would constitute a total Russian takeover of the moon or just a de facto annexation of certain resource-rich lunar regions.

"There's no point in making 10 to 20 flights to the moon and then to drop that all and fly to Mars or the asteroids. That approach would have a beginning, but no conclusion," Rogozin explained, according to a translation provided by Canadian lawmaker and former Reuters Managing Editor Chrystia Freeland. (Freeland is one of 13 Canadian officials recently banned from traveling to Russia, as part of Moscow's retaliation against economic sanctions imposed on Russia for its annexation of Crimea.)

Rogozin explained his proposal in part by noting that the moon could be full of natural resources and valuable minerals. (The moon does have rare earth minerals, but mining them would cost much more than they're worth.) The deputy prime minister is in charge of running Russia's defense and aerospace industries, so this isn't just some mid-level official popping off. He's got some actual authority over making this happen.

Russia has premised its Crimea annexation on a supposed mandate to protect the region's Russian-speaking population. While there are no Russophones believed to presently inhabit the moon, it is true that exactly 50 percent of the human beings currently in space are Russian, bolstering Russia's rationale for a hostile takeover of interplanetary territory.

Republican political leader Newt Gingrich was widely mocked when, as part of the 2012 republican presidential primary, he suggested that the US establish its own permanent presence on the moon. Was he right all along?