Russia, with the help of the European Space Agency, is going to put astronauts on the moon again -- but why?
Russia is restarting a program from the 1970s in an attempt to put man on the moon again.
Russia is partnering with the European Space Agency to land a probe on an as yet unexplored part of the moon in five years in advance of sending an astronaut to pay a new visit to the moon for the first time in a very long time, according to a New Zealand Herald report.
It may conjure up images of the Cold War space race between the United States and the Soviet Union, but considering the fact that NASA is watching with interest and strong U.S. allies will be helping out, it’s certainly nowhere near as much drama — and it may prove useful in terms of lessons learned to future missions to Mars.
And perhaps Russia just wants to get in on the fun. For the past few years, NASA and the ESA have been making headlines with its amazing discoveries and accomplishments, including a flyby of Pluto, landing a probe on a meteorite, and other fascinating developments. Now, Russia is flexing its own muscle in the space realm, and they’re going to focus on our next door neighbor instead of a faraway planet.
Russia will lead the project but will get assistance from the ESA. The Luna 27 mission, as it is called, will happen within the next five years starting with a probe that will check for materials on the moon that could be used to help astronauts get water, oxygen, and fuel, which certainly could have ramifications for future manned missions, such as the one to Mars.
NASA will be watching the mission closely. A recent article posted on NASA’s Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute, a portion of which is excerpted below, describes the mission:
“After many years of hiatus, scientists at the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences will resume Russia’s Moon-exploration program with the launch of the Luna-Glob probe in 2014. They have chosen six locations for landing automatic stations, similar to the Lunakhod rovers landed several decades ago.
“The Luna-Glob probe was designed for studying the Moon’s Polar Regions after NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter discovered the presence of water ice in polar craters that are constantly in the sun’s shadow. This was a significant discovery because the polar environment is so different from the territories studied by the Russian and American “Luna” and “Apollo” programs.
“The pores of the moon’s soil (called lunar regolith) are filled with water. This is similar to the earth’s permafrost and can be described as “lunar permafrost”. The Luna-Glob probe will study its properties using special equipment, which will assess the content of water in the soil. It has a mechanical hand to collect the samples of soil at depths up to two meters. These samples will be analyzed in detail by equipment onboard the probe. The results will help reveal from where water appeared on the Moon and also on the Earth because our planet was originally dry and hot, says the institute’s Igor Mitrofanov.
“‘Possibly, comets brought water onto the Moon and also the Earth. There are two significant differences between the Earth and Moon. The Earth has a stronger gravitational field and a thick atmosphere. Owing to this the Earth could hold out, water and rivers, lakes and oceans appeared, and later, all this led to the origin of life. The Moon has no atmosphere and has a weak gravitational field. Water on its surface can be only under the conditions of extreme cold,’ Igor said.
“Water is necessary not only for research purposes. It is an important resource for the exploration of the Moon, which will be most likely started from the poles.”