"We are planning to build a permanent base on the Moon by 2015 and by 2020 we can begin the industrial-scale delivery ... of the rare isotope Helium-3," Nikolai Sevastyanov, head of the Energia space corporation, was quoted by ITAR-TASS news agency as saying at an academic conference on Wednesday.

The International Space Station (ISS) would play a key role in the project and a regular transport relay to the Moon would be established with the help of the planned Kliper spaceship and the Parom, a space capsule intended to tug heavy cargo containers around space, Sevastyanov said.

Helium-3 is a non-radioactive isotope of helium that can be used in nuclear fusion.

Rare on earth but plentiful on the Moon, it is seen by some experts as an ideal fuel because it is powerful, non-polluting and generates almost no radioactive by-product.

Details of the Parom orbital tug are available on the Parom page of www.russianspaceweb.com

There is an extensive Wikipedia entry on the Kliper programme and related developments here