Monday, April 9, 2012

Russian Academy plans Lunokhod-3 and 4

Schematic representation of the Luna-LD-Rover concept, as presented to the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG) annual meeting in 2010. The overall robust rover and experiments, designed for long-duration exploration through several lunar days and nights, builds on the successful Lunokhod scenarios [Institute for Space Research - Moscow].
The Russian Academy of Sciences has prepared early plans for two Lunokhod-class unmanned lunar rovers, "Lunokhod 3 and Lunokhod-4," to “work the Moon” between 2020 and 2023, this according to a document obtained by the news agency RIA Novosti. A stationary “landing station” is pegged for 2024 “as the first steps to form the future manned lunar base” sometime later.

As the heart of the Soviet Union, Russia was the first and only nation to deploy unmanned rovers on the Moon, Lunokhod-1 in 1970 and Lunokhod-2 in 1973.

Russia completed the last soft landing and sample-return mission on the Moon, Luna 24, in 1976.

The Luna-Glob polar lander, together with its Russian orbiter, originally planned for 2012, and the Luna Resurs polar lander, with India's Chandrayaan-2 orbiter and mini-rover were planned for 2013. Set backs caused by systemic problems, highly manifested in the Phobos-Grunt failure, have resulted in a national reexamination of Russia's unmanned and manned space exploration plans, beyond participation in the International Space Station [IKI].
Missions originally developed for 2012 and 2013, Luna-Resurs and Luna-Glob, are apparently to be pushed back to after 2015. Whether India will continue to participate in those early missions is a question still up in the air. In February the India Space Research Organisation (ISRO) postponed indefinitely the Chandrayaan-2 lunar orbiter and rover combination. India’s rover was designed to be ferried to the surface on Luna-Resurs.

“Under the document," obtained by RIA Novosti, core aims of the Russian scientists are to study polar regions of the Moon and gas-dust exosphere,” according to the April 7 news account. An overall goal of the Academy is to collect samples “and find the most comfortable areas for lunar base deployment.

“The lunar rovers and the landing station will form first elements of space infrastructure for a lunar testing area with prospects of deployment of Russia’s lunar base.”

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