By Leonard David
Russia is developing a renewed robotic moon exploration program, building upon the history-making legacy of orbiters, landers, rovers and sample-return missions the country launched decades ago.
Russia's rekindling of an aggressive moon exploration plan was unveiled by Igor Mitrofanov of the Institute for Space Research (IKI) in Moscow during Microsymposium 54 on "Lunar Farside and Poles — New Destinations for Exploration," held in The Woodlands, Texas, on March 16 and 17.
The microsymposium was co-sponsored by Brown University, Russia's Vernadsky Institute, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the NASA Lunar Science Institute.
Notable lunar firsts
Russia launched its last moon mission in August 1976, when it was still the Soviet Union. That mission, called Luna 24, was the last in the Luna series and featured a spacecraft that landed on the moon and returned samples of the Mare Crisium (Sea of Crisis) region.
he former Soviet Union's robotic lunar program achieved a number of notable "firsts" on Earth's satellite, including the first spacecraft to impact the moon; first flyby and photograph of the lunar farside; first soft landing on the lunar surface; first lunar orbiter; first circumlunar probe to return to Earth; first automatic return of lunar samples; and, of course, the first moon rover Lunokhod.
Today, Russian space scientists are scripting a new plan to reconnect with the moon. . . .
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