The Russian Space Agency announced on Tuesday that it plans to launch an unmanned spacecraft to the moon in 2015. This will be Russia’s first unmanned lunar since the Soviet era.
Vladimir Popovkin, head of the space agency Roscomos, told Russian news agencies that the mission “Luna-Glob-1” (Lunar sphere) will launch in 2015 from Cosmodrome Vostochny, a launch platform in the Far East region of the country. The spacecraft will be carrying approximately 55 pounds of scientific designed to collect soil samples and search for evidence of water, according to the New York Times.
Previously, Russia had planned to launch an unmanned craft to the moon in 2013, but a series of setbacks with a test module in 2011 sent the space agency back to the drawing board to think up a more conservative timetable.
While Russia has suffered several setbacks of their lunar program, Popovkin is confident that the 2015 moon shot will be nothing less that successful.
“There is every reason to believe that Cosmodrome Vostochny will be operational as scheduled in 2015,” Popovkin told Russian news network RT.
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The launching area, Cosmodrome Vostochny, began construction in mid-2012 and is expected to be capable of launching manned space missions by 2018.
After Luna-Glob-1 lands on the moon in 2015, Russia plans to launch a follow up shot to the moon in 2016 with Luna-Glob-2. The following year, Roscosmos plans to launch a more advanced scientific vessel, Luna resurs (Lunar resource). Luna resurs is designed to carry more sophisticated scientific equipment.
Russia has not had a presence on the moon since 1976, during the Soviet era. The Soviet space program launched a series of probes to the moon under the Luna program, with the last unmanned lunar mission, Luna 24 landing on the moon in August 1976.
The Soviets were also famously involved in a race to plant a man on the moon, though their space agency suffered a series of catastrophic setbacks after the nation’s powerful N1 rockets either failed to launch of exploded spectacularly.