Russia aims to return to the Moon
Thirty-nine years ago, on Aug. 18, 1976, the Soviet Union successfully soft-landed its last spacecraft on the Moon – Luna 24. For 37 years, until the lunar landing of China’s Chang’e 3 probe in December of 2013, it was the last man-made object to soft-land on the Moon’s surface. Now, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) plans to continue the legacy of the successful Luna Program by reviving the idea of unmanned lunar landers.
The Russian Space Research Institute (IKI) has recently revealed details about the upcoming Luna 25 (also known as Luna-Glob lander) mission that is being developed by the institute.
The spacecraft is planned to give Russian researchers the opportunity to explore the Moon’s surface in depth. It should land in the vicinity of the lunar south pole and analyze the region’s regolith.
Most of the instruments on the spacecraft are being made at the IKI; a life-sized model of the probe is currently being displayed for visitors at the MAKS-2015 International Air Show in the Moscow suburb of Zhukovsky.
The probe is slated to land in the Boguslavsky crater, near the Moon’s south pole, where its four television cameras will take footage of the area. Another two cameras will observe the work of the probe’s digging tool, and a further two will assist it so that it may move around safely.
The spacecraft will be equipped with a radioisotope thermoelectric generator, to survive the harsh nighttime conditions on the Moon. The generator will provide power by converting the heat generated by the decay of the plutonium-238 isotope into electricity.
“This mission is a scientific-technological one. We want to carry out scientific experiments there, but this is a technological mission in the sense that we need to return to the Moon, learn how to land, and survive the lunar night, since a lot of what was achieved in the 1970s has been forgotten,” said Vladislav Tretyakov, a researcher in nuclear planetology at the IKI.
The Luna 25 mission will include instruments that will carry out scientific research on the lunar surface and deliver detailed data about the Moon’s composition. The IKI-made instruments – such as LIS-TV-RPM (providing IR spectrometry of minerals, and TV imaging) and PmL (responsible for studying the lunar dust and micrometeorites) – will be supported by tools developed in collaboration with universities in Sweden and Switzerland.
The probe will also feature the ADRON-LR instrument that will make active neutron and gamma-ray analysis of regolith. Another significant payload, ARIES-L, will measure the Moon’s exosphere plasma.
The mission is included in the Federal Space program of Russia for 2016–2025. The launch of the Luna 25 spacecraft is currently planned for 2024.
The continuation of the Luna program could be the beginning of Russian plans to establish a lunar base sometime in the 2030s. The proposed base would include a solar power station, telecommunication station, technological station, scientific station, long-range research rover, landing and launch area, and an orbiting satellite.
IKI was founded in 1965 under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR and is now part of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.