Russia will launch an unmanned spacecraft to the moon in 2015, the first step in a new push toward establishing a fully robotic lunar station, according to press reports.
The new moon orbiter, called Luna-Glob, should be ready for launch in two years and is expected to be the first of four missions to establish a lunar base, Russia’s RIA Novosti reported today (Jan. 15).
The spacecraft will carry scientific instruments used for measuring dust and cosmic rays as well as tools that will be used for astrophysics experiments as part of the unmanned mission to the moon. Eventually, the probe should traffic samples of lunar dust and rock back to Earth.
Russia's goal to set up this lunar station dates back to the late 1990's, and was originally marked for completion last year. Due to a few budgetary setbacks, however, the Russian Federal Space Program had to postpone the launch, but it appears to be back on track.
The space agency is also planning on developing better strategies for manned moon exploration. The Federal Space Program recently received 10 million rubles (US $330,000) to create a new rocket that could launch their cosmonauts to the moon.
That project is set for completion at the end of May of this year.