Thursday, October 29, 2015

Russia Hopes to Land Humans on the Moon in 2029

Russia’s growing interest in the moon manifests itself in more and more bold announcements regarding the future manned landing on a lunar surface. On Tuesday, Oct. 27, one of the country’s top space industry officials, Vladimir Solntsev revealed that Russia aims to land a man on the moon in 2029. “A manned flight to the moon and lunar landing is planned for 2029,” said Solntsev, the head of the RKK Energia company.

RKK Energia is the manufacturer of spacecraft and space station components. The company is the prime developer and contractor of the Russian manned spaceflight program.

Solntsev said that Russian scientists in Moscow are building a new spacecraft made of composites specifically for moon missions. Its first flight is scheduled for 2021. Two years later the vehicle will be sent to the International Space Station (ISS), while in 2025 it will complete an unmanned lunar mission.

Russia also plans to send a lunar polar lander around 2024, named Luna-25, or Luna-Glob lander. It will be the country’s first step towards creation of a fully robotic base on the moon. Currently five Luna missions are planned. The European Space Agency (ESA) has lately expressed interest in Russian efforts to colonize the moon. The agency said it would offer key technical expertise for future lunar missions.

ESA also hopes that a possible cooperation with Russia could help the agency send European astronauts to the moon.

"We have an ambition to have European astronauts on the Moon. There are currently discussions at international level going on for broad cooperation on how to go back to the Moon," said Berengere Houdou, the head of the lunar exploration group at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC).

Tuesday’s announcement coincides with the start of the Russian isolation experiment Luna-2015 (Moon-2015) at the Institute for Biomedical Problems (IBMP) of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The experiment simulates an eight-day-long flight from the Earth to the Moon and aims at testing the psychology and physiology of the female organism as the crew consists of six women. RKK Energia said that its specialists will closely study the results of this experiment and, possibly, will take them into account when developing the hardware to support a manned lunar mission.

"Our specialists will conduct a detailed analysis of all the data obtained in the Luna-2015 experiment. We hope that this will help us improve the characteristics of the habitable environment inside the hardware which is being developed to deliver man to the Moon, as well as thoroughly work out the issues of medical and biological support for the missions," said Mark Serov, the head of the flight testing department at RKK Energia.

The last Russian unmanned mission to the moon, Luna 24, landed on the lunar surface on Aug. 18, 1976. It was also the last spacecraft to make a soft landing on the moon until the landing of China’s Chang'e 3 on Dec. 14, 2013.

In 1989 the Soviet Union officially acknowledged the existence of its manned lunar program. The USSR and Russia have so far failed to land cosmonauts on the moon.

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