Russian Academy of Sciences Vice-President, Academy Space Research Institute Director Academician Lev Zelyony predicts a tight lunar race comparable with the current fight for the Arctic.

"In a way the Moon may be described as the seventh continent. According to my prognosis, there will be rivalry for control over lunar polar areas and the possibility of setting up a lunar base in the middle of the 21st century, which will resemble the fight for the Arctic shelf that has become a point of economic interest for many countries," Zelyony said at a space industry development conference at the Mission Control Center under the chairmanship of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin.

It has been proven that lunar polar areas contain large quantities of ice and traces of life may be also found there.

In addition, the Moon is rich in various resources, including rare earths. "There is no doubt that the question of cost-efficiency and transportation will become the primary [focuses] at some point, but if there no alternative, lunar resources will be a good way to solve the rare earths problem of our planet," Zelyony said.

A prospective lunar base can practically substitute the International Space Station or supplement it in some way. The Russian experience of lengthy space missions may be in demand.

Russia has drafted an extensive lunar exploration program, which stipulates the launch of an orbiter and two landing modules, which will take soil samples from the northern and southern polar areas of the Moon.

The program for the period until 2023 is supposed to restore Russia's leadership in space exploration programs, Zelyony concluded.

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