According to the Russian space agency, Russia's next unmanned mission to the Moon will launch in 2015, with a total of three lunar exploration missions planned over the next five years.
Marking Russia's return to the Moon after a 40-year hiatus, this launch will be the first since the last lunar mission was completed in 1973 during the Soviet era.
The missions are to be launched from the Cosmodrome Vostochny, currently under construction in Russia's Far East region.
The first space launch will be lunar mission ‘Luna-Glob-1’ (Lunar sphere), according to Roscosmos head Vladimir Popovkin, who said, “There is every reason to believe that Cosmodrome Vostochny will be operational as scheduled in 2015,” adding that these moon missions will be launched using Soyuz-2 rocket boosters.
Initially the plan was for the Moon exploration program to be launched from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome in 2013 and 2014. However, the crash of the ‘Phobos-Grunt’ module in November 2011 forced a revision of both the program’s timetable and the modules’ technical designs.
Revisions include loading the ‘Luna-Glob-1’ module with only 20 kilograms of scientific equipment instead of the previously planned 34 kilograms. To enable this, the 1.2-ton module has been stripped of its drilling device. Its main task now will be testing a new surface landing platform.
The second launch to the Moon of the orbital scientific module ‘Luna-Glob-2’ is planned for 2016, followed in 2017 by the 3-ton Russian-Indian module ‘Luna-Resurs’ (Lunar resource), which will carry advanced scientific equipment.
Six landing sites have been chosen by Russian scientists for future missions to the Moon, equally distributed between the Moon's north and south poles. The discovery of water ice in those regions sparked scientific interest in the polar areas, which could theoretically be used to produce fuel for future spaceflights and the exploration of the Solar System.
The Voice of Russia reports that the country is planning to create a device that would be able to deliver people to the Moon by 2020. Russian expert in cosmonautics and academician, Alexander Zheleznyakov, said, “However, this doesn’t mean that Russia is planning to send people to the Moon already in 2020.”
“It is only planning to create a device, that would be able to deliver people to the Moon, by 2020.”
“The flight itself will take place after 2020,” he continued. “Until now, the only thing which is already certain about this project is who will finance the creation and the construction of the spaceship. It is not yet certain what type of rocket will take this ship to space. I hope that this will be known when engineers finish working on the creation of the ship.”
Last month, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev approved a plan to spend 2.1 trillion roubles ($70 billion) on space industry development in the period 2013-2020, including projects to explore the Moon and Mars.
Vostochnyj Spaceport: Sign of the beginning of construction of Spaceport open Head of Government Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in August 2010.