Russia plans to land humans on the Moon in 2031
Russia’s rocket and space corporation RKK Energia recently laid out its plan of crewed exploration of the Moon, which includes a flight to lunar orbit in 2030 and landing of the first Russian cosmonaut on the surface a year later.
RKK Energia CEO Vladimir Solntsev revealed on Nov. 15 that Russian flights to the Moon will enter the most crucial phase in 2026 when an uncrewed mission around Earth’s closest neighbor is planned. One year later, the company aims to launch a lunar lander to orbit the Moon. However, the biggest milestones are scheduled for 2029–2031.
“In 2029, there will be an unmanned flight of a new spacecraft to the Moon’s orbit. In the 2030s, we set the task of a manned flight to the Moon and in 2031 we plan landing on the Moon,” Solntsev said.
The new vision of lunar exploration by Russia may seem to accelerate the country’s space program, but it is simply a postponement of the date of future Moon landings envisioned in earlier statements. Last year, Solntsev made remarks about a possible crewed mission to the Moon in 2025 and with the first piloted lunar landing in 2029.
In 1989, the Soviet Union officially acknowledged the existence of its manned lunar program. Russia, formerly the U.S.S.R., has so far failed to land cosmonauts on the Moon. The last Russian uncrewed mission to the Moon, Luna 24, landed on the lunar surface on Aug. 18, 1976.
Sending the first Russians to the Moon is strictly dependent on the development of the country’s next-generation “Federation” spacecraft which will replace the aging Soyuz vehicle. With a mass of approximately 14.4 metric tons, Federation measures some 20 feet (6.1 meters) in length and will be used to deliver cosmonauts and cargo to the Moon and to space stations positioned in a low-Earth orbit. It will be also capable of sending crews to Sun-Earth or Earth-Moon Lagrangian points.
Federation is currently being developed by RKK Energia. The spacecraft is planned to by completed by 2021 to conduct its maiden test flight that year. Besides the first test flight, one unmanned mission and one test mission of a crewed variant of the vehicle are scheduled for 2023.
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.