Russia to Return to the Moon... Jun 6, 2006 2:51:33 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Jun 6, 2006 2:51:33 GMT -6
Russia's Lunar Return
Russia, which pioneered and then abandoned robotic exploration of the Moon after loss of the Space Race and collapse of the Soviet Union, is starting the development of its first lunar mission in 30 years.
The ambitious flight, entering initial design, will include a lunar orbiter that, under the current plan, will also simultaneously deploy 13 probes across diverse regions of the lunar surface. This will include two penetrators that will be fired toward the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 landing sites to acquire subsurface data to build on the manned exploration and instrumentation left at those locations 37 years ago by U.S. astronauts.
The Russian flight is also to shower 10 other higher-speed penetrators on the Moon that will form a seismic network to help solve questions about the Moon's origin.
The mother ship for the penetrators is then to drop a soft lander into a south polar crater to search for signs of water ice that would complement data from the planned 2008 U.S. Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing impactor mission to the same region (AW&ST Apr. 17, p. 26). The new "Luna-Glob" mission is now a formal part of the Russian space plan with launch set for 2012, says Nikolay F. Moiseev, deputy director of the Russian space agency. With the new lunar flight, Russia finally joins the U.S., China, India, Japan and Europe in renewed exploration of the Moon. But the program is also subject to future budget and technical risks.
The Russian lunar mission is to follow the launch in 2009 of a Russian sample return flight to the Martian moon Phobos as part of a renewal of Russian robotic planetary exploration, Moiseev told Aviation Week & Space Technology. Both missions have science goals related to the formation of bodies in the Solar System. The Phobos flight would help confirm theories about it being a captured asteroid, while the Luna mission would sort out competing theories of the Moon's origin.
After releasing the two PLs and 10 HSPs, the mother ship will enter a polar orbit around the Moon. It also carries the Polar Station lander that will be deployed to land in a 35-mi.-wide crater near the south pole, where analysis indicates water ice could exist in a permanently shaded area. The PS will carry a retro rocket and inflatable landing bag so it can touchdown as slowly as 16 fps. to deliever a mass spectrometer and neutron spectrometer as well as an additional seismometer to the surface.
The spectrometers will attempt to detect the presence of any volatile that could indicate nearby water ice.
The orbiter portion of the spacecraft still aloft over the Moon would relay data from the 10 HSPs, two PLs and single Polar Station back to Earth.