46 years later, Russia still yearns for lunar mission

2 Dec 2015

Russia is apparently planning for a crewed mission to the moon, 46 years after it ‘lost’ the space race to the US. Oh, and to go one better, it wants to set up a lunar base too.

The space race was such a weird, focused, two-horse scenario that it’s difficult to take it all that seriously anymore.

In the blue corner, representing the forces of good or, rather, the forces of money, the US! In the red corner, representing the forces of bad or, rather, not the US, Russia!

One sends up a satellite, the other follows. One sends animals into space, the other follows. One sends a human into space, the other follows. One sends humans to the moon, the other follows, eventually.

Yes, 46 years after Neil Armstrong’s careless wandering brought him thousands of miles from home, Russia seems to be laying down its plans to send six (!) missions moon-ward, the latter of which will carry a bunch of humans.

Partnership? Maybe not

About six weeks ago, news emerged of a potential partnership between the Russian and European space agencies.

Announcing the 15-year target, Russia’s Roscosmos space agency spoke of a three-stage plan to bring humans up to our “permanent outpost” for the 21st century.

“A manned flight to the moon and lunar landing is planned for 2029,” said Vladimir Solntsev, the head of Roscosmos, at the time. Now, though, some details have emerged as to the whole, multi-trip process.

The Angara A5V rocket is essentially going to act as superstar midfield general, helping to bring up a lunar lander, a crewed orbiter and, eventually, a lunar base.

A lunar base and a busy rocket

“The continuation of the Luna program could be the beginning of Russian plans to establish a lunar base sometime in the 2030s,” claims Russian news agency TASS, which said it spoke with a source in the space agency.

“The proposed base would include a solar power station, telecommunication station, technological station, scientific station, long-range research rover, landing and launch area, and an orbiting satellite.”

What’s quite cool is the Angara will be a bit of a freelancer, with commercial opportunities a new addition to any Russian lunar pursuits.

So, while NASA fixes its eyes firmly on pretty much everything other than the moon, Russia will look to do something we all imagined eminently feasible when we were mere stupid children, choc full with an abundance of high hopes and a scarcity or realism.

By 2029, thanks to many short, believable missions, Russia might finally put humans on the moon. And, even cooler, keep them there. What a fitting way to celebrate Armstong and co’s 60-year anniversary.

Maybe China’s planned radio outpost on the dark side of the moon will keep the tunes flowing as the cosmonauts descend on to the cheesy surface.

TASS russia moon mission

The moon above Moscow, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic