Plans are zooming ahead for Russian scientists to send 2 lunar rovers to the Moon. Even more exciting, they are planning landing stations there after 2020.
Digital Journal reported in March that Russia was planning to expand its space program with visits to the Moon and a Mars landing by 2030.
Plans are now being made to study the polar regions and to eventually create a permanent, manned base on the Moon after 2020.
According to RIA Novosti, emphasis is being placed on the poles due to a discovery of ice, quoting a leaked draft of a space research roadmap, which had been prepared by the Russian Academy of Sciences. They also wish to study the gas-dust exosphere of the Moon, take soil samples and establish the best area to build a lunar base.
It is planned that the initial stage will begin in 2015, when Luna-Resrs and Luna-Glob probes will be launched. Both probes are similarly designed and will study both the north and south poles of the moon in tandem.
Gregory H. Revera
A station including a small lunar rover will be sent, which will then take soil samples up to a depth of to 2 meters. These samples will then be studied on site.
The second stage is scheduled for after 2020, when 2 larger rovers are planned to be delivered to the Moon. The missions of these rovers could last as long as 5 years, and the rovers would scout the area for a diameter of approximately 30 kms around the landing sites.
There are several objectives of these 2 lunar missions, which include field testing precise landings, using a beacon on the surface of the Moon for guidance and also rovers intended to preserve energy during the lunar nights.
Other nations will be involved in the program, including India.
Once the rovers have collected up to 7 lunar soil samples, in 2023 a station is scheduled to land on the Moon to collect these samples and return them to Earth for study.
The studies will then provide the data required to design a manned lunar base in the more distant future. The station and the rovers may be used as the first building blocks of this planned base.
All these exciting plans bring to mind the movie "Moon" which was released in 2009. Hopefully the Russians' lunar encounters will be far more positive than those in the film.