A European-Russian mission to determine whether a permanent human settlement could be set up at the Moon’s unexplored south pole is likely to go ahead, says an exclusive BBC report.
The mission, which will be led by the Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos, will be carried out together with the European Space Agency (ESA). It will be one of several attempts aimed at eventually getting humans back to the moon.
The mission, called Luna 27, will send a lander (robot probe) to determine whether the area has water and other raw materials required to make fuel and oxygen. If all goes according to plan, the two space agencies hope to launch the probe at the end of this decade.
Are there enough elements and water on the Moon needed to support a permanent human settlement? (Image: ESA)
Moon exploration halted in 1970s
The Soviet Union halted its lunar exploration programme in the mid 1970s. This mission aims to continue where the previous one left off.
One of the lead scientists, Prof. Igor Mitrofanov, of the Space Research Institute in Moscow, told BBC News:
“We have to go to the Moon. The 21st Century will be the century when it will be the permanent outpost of human civilisation, and our country has to participate in this process.”
This time we’ll work together
This time, however, Prof. Mitrofanov said Russia needs to “work together with our international colleagues” rather than in competition with them, as was the case decades ago.
Head of the European Space Research and Technology Centre (Estec), Bérengère Houdou, said:
“We have an ambition to have European astronauts on the Moon. There are currently discussions at international level going on for broad cooperation on how to go back to the Moon.”
ESA’s lead scientist on the project, Dr. James Carpenter, said:
“The south pole of the moon is unlike anywhere we have been before. The environment is completely different, and due to the extreme cold there you could find large amounts of water-ice and other chemistry which is on the surface, and which we could access and use as rocket fuel or in life-support systems to support future human missions we think will go to these locations.”
Video – Destination Moon
In this 8-minute ESA video, Dr. James Carpenter gives us an overview of the past, present and future Moon exploration “from the Lunar cataclysm to ESA’s vision of what Lunar exploration could be.”