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Infinity and beyond? Space race reaching new frontiers, says Russia space chief

Russia and the U.S. may have raced to land the first person on the Moon in the 1960s, but the next challenges lie deeper in space, the head of the Russian Federal Space Agency told CNBC on Thursday.

"We want to develop presence and long-lasting work on other planets, on asteroids and long-lasting missions,"Igor Komarov, the head of Roscosmos, said in a television interview in Moscow.

He said the agency was also focused on improving astronaut safety and on safeguarding Earth from colliding with an asteroid — an issue that required international cooperation, he said.

Komarov added that the political tensions between the U.S.and Russia were not preventing collaboration in the space industry.

"Some problems … cannot be solved by one country, even (a) big and great power — like asteroid danger," he told CNBC.

The Russian agency is also eyeing Mars. In March, Roscosmos and the European Space Agency (ESA) launched a joint mission to the Red Planet and another is planned for 2018. On arrival, the 2016 mission will search for evidence of gases like methane that could have once helped support life. The 2018 mission will scour the surface of Mars for life, using a drill to collect samples.

A rocket carrying ExoMars spacecraft blasts off on March 14, 2016.
Sergei Savostyanov | TASS | Getty Images
A rocket carrying ExoMars spacecraft blasts off on March 14, 2016.

In another example of international space collaboration,Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and physicist Stephen Hawking launched a $100 million project to search for alien life in April. The mission's destination would be Alpha Centauri, a nearby star system where astronomers say there may be an Earth-like planet that can support human life.

Meanwhile, the ESA hopes to build the first permanent base on the Moon, in collaboration with countries including Russia, the U.S.,China, India and Japan. In March, the ESA said tourists might be able to holiday on the "Moon Village."

Komarov told CNBC there was a list of wealthy people gunning to be the first tourists on space flights. He said a seat on a low-orbital space flight would cost more than $30 million-$40 million and would be subject to passing a medical test and more than a year of preparation.

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