Russian Scientists Outline More Plans for Lunar Exploration
April 3, 2013 • 8:59AM

At conferences and meetings over the past two weeks, top-level Russian space scientists and mission managers have added detail to the array of missions to the Moon that are being planned, as reported by space.com.

At the Microsymposium 54 meeting on March 16-17 in Texas, titled, "Lunar Farside and Poles — New Destinations for Exploration," Igor Mitrofanov, from the Moscow-based Institute for Space Research of the Academy of Sciences, outlined an increasingly complex progression of lunar missions. These missions will be used to rebuild, and extend, the exploration capabilities that existed during the Soviet Union, but have atrophied since the early 1990s. Deploying unmanned landers, orbiters, and robotic sample return missions were all done by the Soviets in the 1970s, with the last Soviet lunar mission in 1976. With many of the pioneers who developed those systems largely gone, the engineering skills and manufacturing capability must be relearned. The U.S. space program is in a similar situation, with the Apollo-generation retired or gone, and no landing missions to the Moon since 1972.

The first Russian lunar mission, now scheduled for 2015, will be the Luna Glob Lander, which is to place a small lander on the south pole of the Moon. This will primarily demonstrate the ability to, once again, land on a celestial body in deep space. The following year, the Luna Glob Orbiter will take scientific measurements, and scout out potential landing sites for future exploration. It will also test and verify technologies, such as for communications, needed for long-lived missions. The 2017 Luna Resource-1 will send a large lander to the Moon's south pole, which is attractive real estate, as permanently-shadowed polar regions harbor caches of an important resource — water ice. It would test a drilling system for sampling the subsurface.

"To be determined," Mitrofanoc said, are missions in 2019 and 2020, which will go ahead depending upon the results of the first three.

Also, at a March 26th forum, Info Space 2013, deputy general director of the JSC Russian Space Systems company, and former Roscosmos director, Anatoly Perminov, said that Russia was already taking steps to create a system to counter space threats, Itar-Tass reports. "It is seen as a package solution addressing three issues: monitoring asteroids, meteorites, and comets; keeping an eye on space junk; and assessing 'space weather' factors, specifically their impact on the operation of space, energy, and transport facilities," Perminov is quoted. His IGMASS initiative, which would be global, would cover all of these aspects. Perminov estimated that "a future asteroid and comet security system will cost about 30 billion rubles to establish."