Russia is poised to reactivate its lunar exploration program, a former Soviet enterprise that ended decades ago. The last in a string of pioneering Soviet robotic moon missions was Luna 24, sending about 6 ounces (170 grams) moon matter returned to Earth in 1976.
Russia’s planned Luna 25 mission is set to begin a string of moon outings that also involve Europe and China. For example, Russia intends to work with China to build the International Lunar Research Station, which is scheduled to be operational by 2035.
Russia’s rekindling of its Moon exploration goals will clearly be bolstered by the success of Luna 25An amphibious mission is scheduled to launch this July.
But what will Russia and China’s lunar exploration plan actually look like, and how this partnership could affect NASA’s lunar “reboot” via NASA? Artemis program, is not clear.
Luna 25 will launch to the top of a Soyuz-2.1b rocket with a Fregat upper stage from Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East. The probe’s main destination is the south polar region of the moon – specifically a point north of the Boguslavsky crater. (An area southwest of Manzini Crater is a fallback site.)
NPO Lavochkin, a Russian spacecraft-building company, has built the lander, which is billed as a pathfinder probe to test soft-touch technology in the superpolar region of the moon and carry out studies in contact with the south pole of the Moon.
Pavel Kazmerchuk, chief designer of Luna 25 at Lavochkin, has stated that all the scientific instruments have been installed on the probe. Radio engineering testing is currently underway, to be completed in March. Development of the integrated software for the aircraft is expected to be completed in April.
But Luna 25’s path to the moon wasn’t an easy one. Problems found during testing of the nearly 2-ton spacecraft caused the spacecraft to skid from takeoff in October 2021 to May 2022, and the spacecraft is now being ready for use. “priority” departure on 23 July.
“In 2021, the Luna 25 spacecraft is fully assembled; a large number of ground-based tests have been carried out. The spacecraft will be launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the launch window. May 25 to October 19, 2022, but we aim for July,” said Dmitry Rogozin, general manager of RoscosmosFederal space agency of Russia, said in a statement last month.
The main task
Luna 25 is designed to operate on the surface of the moon for at least a year, using a sensor to study the moon and the dust and particles in it. thin atmosphere of the moonor exosphere.
According to Lavochkin, Luna 25 has three main tasks: developing soft landing technology; internal structure study and natural resource exploration, including water, in the aurora of the moon; and investigated the effects of cosmic rays and electromagnetic radiation on the surface of the moon.
The lander carried eight Russian instruments, including a robotic arm for lunar sound retrieval, and a device developed by European Space Agency (ESA) – a camera called Pilot-D, a performer’s relative topographic positioning system.
Talent and experience
Eagerly awaiting the Luna 25 mission is James Head, a geoscientist in the Department of Earths, Environments and Planets at Brown University in Rhode Island.
“It is truly amazing to anticipate the launch, landing and operation of Luna 25 in the south pole of the moon later this year, and to see Russian scientists and engineers bring the talent and their vast experience in the field of lunar exploration,” Head told Space.com.
“It will be many years before other countries can duplicate the decades of ground-breaking robotic lunar exploration that was carried out by our Russian colleagues over 40 years ago, with the lunar rover. robot and three sample return missions,” says Head.
According to ESA, the Luna 26 orbiter is scheduled to launch two years after Luna 25. Luna 26 will perform remote scientific measurements and serve as a possible communication device for the next lander mission. . It will transmit data back to ground stations on Earth, including the ESA network of ground stations.
The Luna 27 lander will launch a year after Luna 26 and will be larger than its predecessor, Luna 25. It will fly to a challenging landing site closer to the Moon’s south pole using the European Pilot technology as its main navigation system. Luna 27 will launch the ESA-provided Prospect exercise to search for water ice and other compounds under lunar terrain.
Currently, NPO Lavochkin is creating a project Luna 28 to transport lunar soil from the south pole, an effort also designed for follow-up expeditions to deploy a lunar facility.
Route to the moon
Last year, Rogozin and Zhang Kejian, Director of China’s National Space Administration (CNSA), signed a memorandum of cooperation to start organizing a International Science Moon Station.
An initial roadmap for a lunar outpost requires a combination of experimental research facilities – on the lunar surface and/or in lunar orbit – to conduct missions that make human presence possible. long on the moon.
China launched the research station project together with Russia, and also launched the Sino-Russian Joint Data Center for Lunar Exploration and Deep Space. China is working with Russia to coordinate 2024 Chang’e 7 Polar exploration mission with Russia’s Luna 26 orbiter mission.
Clive Neal, a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering & Geology at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, says the good news is that the moon is getting more attention.
Like Head, Neal was an authority on lunar science and exploration. Neal sees encouraging signs that a strong economy will develop in Earth-Moon space – an economy that could serve as a template for doing the same elsewhere in the solar system. God. But he also raised some concerns.
“The trouble we have when we look at Russia and China – it’s kind of like a competitive game going on,” Neal told Space.com. “I hope this will be a collaborative effort rather than something competitive.”
That said, Neal wants to see the final plans from NASA regarding a lunar station. The US agency has stated that it aims to build a research outpost on the moon through Artemis Programbut details are still scarce at the moment.
“NASA needs to get serious about base camp plan, because I don’t think it is right now,” Neal said. There’s a lot of regret about the long-term human presence on the moon, but what does that mean? It is by no means permanent. “
Let’s get serious about the moon
Neal says he is “cautiously optimistic” that 2022 will be a great year for lunar exploration. Part of the optimism stems from American companies’ plans to deliver science and technology to the lunar surface through NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Service initiative.
“They’re cutting metal right now. They have the tonnage. They have the contract. And they have to deliver,” Neal said. “I hope NASA will seize this opportunity as something to build into bigger and better things.”
But Neal added that the US space agency “needs to get serious about the moon … and Congress needs to provide funding for NASA to get serious.”
Missing today is a resource search campaign, an international campaign, Neal said. “If you don’t do the grumbling and prospecting work, you’ll never know if lunar resources can be used to do what some say they will be used to. Are not.”
Neal added. It is not yet known how such a campaign would work and who would coordinate it.
“If NASA had an Artemis program office, maybe that would be a good place for it. I hope you’ll sense my frustration,” Neal said.
Neal says he wishes the best of luck to China, Russia, NASA and all the American commercial groups in their efforts to the moon. “If we all come together to do this for the good of humanity, then I think we’ll be in good shape,” he concluded.
Leonard David is the author of “Moon Rush: The New Space Race” (National Geographic, 2019). A longtime Space.com writer, David has been reporting on the space industry for over 5 decades. Follow them on Twitter @Spacedotcom or above Facebook.
https://www.space.com/russia-rekindle-moon-program-luna-25-launch Russia aims to revive the lunar program with the launch of a lander to the moon this July