Afanasyev asked why he couldn't use the facilities and experience of Chelomei at Reutov. Keldysh pointed out that there would be no Soviet manned lunar landing until 1972, given the current status of the project. Chief of Defence lndustries Serbin pressed Mishin as to why he did not meet the schedule ordered by the Central Committee.
Keldysh then launched a full-scale attack on Mishin's manned space plans. Can anyone find a single person who made the Soviet moon-landing programme a priority? Were they even thinking of the next step, travel to Mars? Russian can explore the moon with robot probes and rovers, without the need for the N1. And Barmin is working on a lunar base -- he heard it was even called 'Barmingrad'. For what? Does Russian need a base on the moon? How is it possible they are dreaming of lunar bases and stations in lunar orbit? And huge stations in earth orbit. Who has analysed all of this activity? How is it justified? It is better to keep all of the effort wasted on this activity forever secret, and go back and analyse what is really justified or needed, and then establish program priorities. Chertok noted that only Keldysh was capable of speaking so bluntly to Serbin.
Tyulin, First Deputy Minister for missile and space programmes, pointed out that as far as he had understood, the N1-L3 was a priority project. America's Apollo program clearly had many advantages - they had been working on it for ten years, not five, it was publicly known, and supported by their President. The N1 had originally been conceived for a different purpose - to orbit a large military space station and as a single-launch, preemptive strike ICBM. Now the question to be answered was not whether it should be cancelled, but whether it should be used to send Soviet men to the moon or to Mars. Tyulin supported concentrating on Mars, with the N1 launching a heavy unmanned probe to Mars in 1973. In 1975 two N1's would be used to launch two spacecraft, which would dock in earth orbit, then propel a piloted expedition to Mars. Tyulin couldn't guarantee the N1 would have the 95 tonne payload necessary for the one-way lunar trip, but he could guarantee a 90 tonne payload, sufficient for the Mars expedition. Docking in space had already been demonstrated. If the probe or expedition found life on Mars, it would be a huge scientific sensation, and the Soviet Union would have leapfrogged the Americans in the space race.
The group agreed to defer further discussion of the matter until after the imminent first launch of the N1. Chertok noted that Korolev had anyway always had Mars, not the moon, as his primary objective.