Russia are planning to send an unmanned probe to the moon in 2015.
The craft, called Luna-Glob, or Moon-Globe, will be carried by the first rocket to blast off from a new facility that Russia is building in its far eastern Amur region.
It will consist of an orbital module and a probe that would land on the moon and beam back information about samples it takes from the surface.
‘We will begin our exploration of the moon from there,’ Roskosmos director Vladimir Popovkin said.
The new space centre will decrease Russia’s reliance of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the ex-Soviet nation Kazakhstan, which it leases.
State-run news agency Ria Novosti has said that it will carry dust monitors and plasma sensors to sense high-energy cosmic rays as well.
It will be the first Russian trip to the moon since the 1970’s.
The Soviet Union got a jump on the United States in the Cold War space race, sending a probe to the moon in 1959 and putting the first person into space in 1961.
But the United States first put a man on the moon in 1969 and Russia has not done so.
Russia hasn’t been very successful with lunar probes, despite being the first nation to touch down on the moon in 1959, ten years before Neil Armstrong. It’s most ambitious probe mission. The $160 million Fobos-Grunt mission destined for Mars failed miserably after it got stuck in Earth low-orbit in 2011.
Now, the Russian space agency is set to return to the moon with an unmanned probe destined for 2015. The newly opened facility in eastern Amur, in detriment to the historically famous Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
Russia’s last unmanned moon mission was in 1976.
The last successful Soviet launch of a unmanned probe to the moon was in the 1970s, and Russia has suffered setbacks in its space program in recent years, including bungled satellite launches and the failure of a Mars probe in 2011.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev approved a plan last month to spend 2.1 trillion roubles ($70 billion) on space industry development in 2013-2020, to pursue projects to explore the moon and Mars, among other things.
by David Livingstone