"We have many initiatives from researchers on organizing expeditions to the Moon and Mars," said Nikolai Moiseyev, a deputy director of the Russian Rosaviakosmos space agency.
"Before the end of the year, we intend to develop a federal space program until 2015 and it is possible that such projects would be included," the ITAR-TASS news agency quoted him as saying.
On Wednesday, US President George W. Bush unveiled ambitious plans for the United States to return to the Moon as early as 2015, saying a lunar base would serve as a jumping-off point for manned missions to Mars and "across our solar system."
During the Cold War, Washington and Moscow competed fiercely in space exploration, and many Russians are still intensely proud of Soviet achievements in that field.
The Soviet Union scored a major victory on April 12, 1961, when Yury Gagarin became the first man in space. The Americans struck back eight years later, when Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the Moon on July
Moscow's space programs had to be considerably scaled back in 1991, when the Soviet Union fell apart and state financing dried up.
But as Washington outlined its plans this week, officials here emphasized that though Russia may be short of financial resources for ambitious space programs, it could hold its own in the field of technology and skills.
An official with the institute that developed the Soviet "Lunokhod" (Moonwalker) robot said that scientists have maintained their research and development efforts and could quickly resume construction.
"If Russia decides to revive its lunar program, we would need a year to create a prototype of a new Lunokhod and two to three years to construct the apparatus," Roald Kremnyev, deputy director of the Lavochkin institute, told
"Russia can overtake USA," an anchorwoman on state television said Thursday, echoing comments the previous day by a top Russian space official who said that Moscow is capable of placing a man on Mars within 10 years at one tenth of the cost of reported US plans.
"Technically, the first flight to Mars could be made in 2014. It would cost around 15 billion dollars (11.7 billion euros) to do it, compared with the American estimate for their project of 150 billion dollars," said Leonid Gorshkov, chief designer with Energia, the Russian space constructor.
And an unnamed official at Energia on Thursday suggested that the United States and Russia should join forces in Mars exploration.
"It would be much more profitable to pool efforts in a manned flight to Mars and the planetary development instead of holding the project independently," the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
Russia and the United States have been cooperating in work aboard the International Space Station since it was launched in 1998.
After the US grounded its shuttle program following the 2003 Columbia disaster Russian rockets were left as the only way to ferry people and supplies to and from the ISS.
Following Bush's speech, NASA chief Sean O'Keefe spoke by phone with his counterpart at Rosaviakosmos to assure him that the Americans had no intention of withdrawing from the ISS.
"O'Keefe said that there was no talk of NASA withdrawing from the ICC," the Russian agency's spokesman told RIA Novosti.