Roscosmos and the European Space Agency appear to be moving ahead with plans to survey and eventually set up a base on the South Pole of the moon.
Humans haven’t set foot on the moon since the December 14, 1972 landing of Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Harrison ‘Jack’ Schmitt. But that may be about to change.
According to a report from Mashable, the European Space Agency and Russia’s Federal Space Agency, or Roscosmo, are planning a joint mission to set up permanent bases on the surface of the moon. The mission is called Luna 27, and will explore the distant south pole of the moon, the South Pole-Aitken.
The two space agencies will send robotic probes to the moon first, but these landings will eventually give way to a more permanent base located on the surface. The habitats will look like silver domes connected by concrete corridors, and would be equipped with all of the necessities for an astronaut on an extended stay.
Research in this region of the moon would focus on searching for frozen water. The moon’s southern pole is completely shaded from the sun’s light and is much colder than the surface we can see from Earth. Scientists hope that the presence of water ice could be used to help create rocket fuel and drinking water for astronauts.
The preliminary missions will also search for a suitable spot to land on the moon’s South Pole and begin bringing supplies for the base. The probe will be equipped with a camera and laser navigation system to map out the best real estate for a landing zone.
According to Professor Igor Mitrofanov, from the Space Research Institute in Moscow, and the preliminary study’s lead researcher, “We have to go to the moon. The 21st century will be the century when it will be the permanent outpost of human civilization, and our country has to participate in this process.”
The two agencies have been planning this joint lunar mission for a long time. Their recent announcements indicate that the project could finally be ready for launch in the near future.