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Russian lunar base gets closer with new moon probe set for 2015 launch


January 16, 2013

Russia is planning to launch probe Luna-Glob in 2015 as a first step toward building a fully robotic base on the surface of the Moon (Image: NASA)

Russia is planning to launch probe Luna-Glob in 2015 as a first step toward building a fully robotic base on the surface of the Moon (Image: NASA)

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The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) is planning to launch an unmanned spacecraft to the Moon in 2015, a first step toward the ambitious long-term plan to establish a robotic base on the surface of our largest satellite. The spacecraft, called Luna-Glob ("Moon globe"), will be followed by two more orbiters and two rovers that will study the lunar soil locally and collect samples of rocks and dust, bringing them back to Earth for analysis.

The Luna-Glob spacecraft will lift off from Vostochny, in Far Eastern Russia, and carry a scientific payload of 120 kilograms (260 pounds) to measure dust and cosmic rays as well as conduct astrophysics experiments.

After enough data has been gathered, the next step will be to launch a joint orbiter-rover mission featuring a 58 kg (90 lbs) rover that will land at the Moon's south pole, examine a crater and scout the area for up to a year, running on solar panels.

Next, another orbiter with annexed lander will be launched. The lander is set to carry a large, 400 kg (850 lbs) rover that will be able to investigate the soil locally. A second lander will then shuttle about one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of soil and rock samples back to Earth.

Finally, by 2037, the Russians expect to build a robotic lunar base that would include a solar power station, a long-range research rover, and a dedicated orbiting satellite.

The Russian space program has seen a number of setbacks in recent years. In November 2011, the Phobos-Grunt probe, designed to bring back rock and soil samples from the Martian moon Phobos, failed to leave Earth's orbit and ended up crashing into the Pacific Ocean. And last December, the launch of a telecom satellite was botched as the fuel supply of the rocket carrying it unexpectedly and suddenly depleted in mid air.

Russia has been set on building a permanent lunar base since the late 1990s. The Luna-Glob spacecraft was planned for completion last year, but the project was delayed because of financial difficulties. In light of recent developments, however, the program appears to be back on track.

Despite the recent setbacks, in fact, the country has recently committed to substantially increasing its investments in space exploration. Last month, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev approved a plan to double the output of the Russian space industry by 2020, allocating a budget of US$70 billion for the period 2013-2020. For reference, the ongoing Curiosity mission, scheduled to last a minimum of 23 months, has total costs approaching $2.5 billion.

Sources: Ria Novosti, ESA (pdf), Kharkiv National University (pdf)

About the Author
Dario Borghino Dario studied software engineering at the Polytechnic University of Turin. When he isn't writing for Gizmag he is usually traveling the world on a whim, working on an AI-guided automated trading system, or chasing his dream to become the next European thumbwrestling champion. All articles by Dario Borghino

I really hope this sparks another space race.

Daniel Moreno

Select a lunar area rife with craters having central uplifts, and explore the uplifts to find differentiated Oort cloud comet cores composed of granite plutons surrounded with greenstone mantles.

David Carlson

Or use Russian rover to photograph any Apollo landing sites & any other odd Lunar features for future tourism. And let tourists, see this Russian lunar base.

Stephen Russell

Extrapolating this project to its conclusion:

The biggest thing is the viability of making products from moon soil. Not only oxygen, but fuels and organic fertiliser to support a bio dome.

If work on an eco-system can be started early, work will be completed by the time a second shipment is ready to come in with seedlings.

The matter of deflecting radiation will be something of a debate as plants might be affected in the long run.

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