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Russia heads back to the Moon

Lunar exploration and investigation quietly continues as Russia stakes its claim on lunar exploration – and development

Lunar outpost near the moon's south pole

Russia plans to launch the Lunar-25 research landing module to the Moon in 2019, followed by an orbiter (Lunar 26) and another lander in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

In Russia, there is a rather heightened sense of doubt that the American manned moon landings ever took place.  Apparently the movie Capricorn One was taken to be a bit more of a documentary film than it was intended to be.  It is most likely a mixture of national pride and aging historical perspective, since it is known everywhere in the Russia Federation that Yuri Gagarin was the first man in space, and that Sputnik was the first artificial satellite.  But additionally, the last American landing on the moon was over forty-five years ago.  Time makes such an accomplishment a bit “malleable.”

However the Russian space program lives in reality and is working on its own projects to investigate the lunar surface, possibly as a prelude to building a base or even a colony.

Earthrise over the Moon, taken by NASA’s Apollo 8 mission astronaut William Anders on December 24, 1968.

These projects signify the Russian Federation’s resumed progress in this area.  Their own last lunar mission occurred in 1976, when the Luna-24 probe flew to the moon, landed, gathered soil samples and returned them to Earth.  Like the United States, this pace of flights had been accelerated during the Cold War years, as the USA and Soviet Union sought to outdo one another in scientific and technological achievements.  The Soviets were actually the first to reach the moon, when their Luna-2 probe successfully impacted on the Moon’s surface in September 1959.Their Luna-9 probe in 1966 was the first probe to successfully achieve a soft landing on the Moon. This probe returned five panoramic, stereoscopic photos.  Other probes successfully deployed robotic roamers, and several were landing and sample-return missions, demonstrating significant expertise in robotic systems, before and during the American moon landings.

Simultaneously, the Soviet Union did run a manned program to try to reach the moon before the Americans, but it was riddled with technical failures and was eventually canceled.  Due to the secrecy of such risky projects and the chance that a public failure would undermine the legendary success of Communism, this program was not public knowledge until 1990.

Although the sense of ideological competition between the present-day Russian Federation and the USA is nonexistent, both nations, along with Europe, China and other countries, are all interested in the Earth’s natural satellite for new reasons.  The possibility of using water-ice on the Moon as a fuel source for interplanetary exploration spacecraft has renewed interest across the globe as a mixture of government agencies and private industry have joined the surge in research, development and exploration of the Moon and Mars.

These planned launches are an encouraging piece of news, as it appears that once again, the conquest of space is a going proposition.

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