The Russian Federal Space Agency — commonly referred to as Roscosmos — just announced its plans to send humans to the Moon in 2029, RT News reported. It's part of the agency's ultimate goal of creating and maintaining a lunar station. Vladimir Solntsev, head of Roscomsos Energia, made the announcement Tuesday at a space and technology conference in Moscow; he noted that they are currently building the spacecraft for the mission now, with its first flight into space planned for 2021.
After its initial flight, the plan is to have the spacecraft dock with the International Space Station in 2023, according to Solntsev. Then in 2025, Roscosmos will send an uncrewed version of the spacecraft to the Moon, before finally sending astronauts in the vehicle in 2029.
It's part of the agency's ultimate goal of creating a lunar station
It also looks like the European Space Agency may be along for the ride. Two weeks ago, BBC News reported that the ESA had been in talks with Roscosmos to collaborate on sending a lander to the Moon's south pole. The mission, called Luna 27, would be the first in a series of missions that would eventually return humans to the lunar surface. "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," Bérengère Houdou, head of lunar exploration at ESA, told BBC News.
Luna 27 would be part of Russia's Luna-Globb exploration program, which strives to establish a robotic lunar base on the Moon through a series of landers. Luna-Globb was originally announced in 1997, but the program's start date has been continually pushed back, with the first planned lander supposedly getting to the Moon sometime in 2024. The program includes other initiatives, such as Luna 25 and Luna 26, which would send a lunar lander to one of the Moon's poles and a lunar spacecraft into the Moon's orbit.
Meanwhile, NASA still has its sights set on Mars
Russia and ESA aren't the only ones hoping to put people on Earth's satellite. The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program launched the Chang'e program in 2007, which involves sending a series of probes to lunar orbit and then to the surface. China's most recent probe — Chang'e 3 — successfully soft landed on the Moon in 2013, and the country plans to do a sample return in 2017. China hopes the Chang'e probes will pave the way for sending humans to the Moon sometime in the mid-2020s. Russia has also expressed interest in collaborating with China for its lunar colony idea.
Meanwhile, NASA still has its sights set on Mars. The US space agency plans to send humans to the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s. NASA administrator Charles Bolden, speaking today about the mission details, emphatically told his audience the US should focus on Mars. Currently, NASA doesn't have any plans to return people to the surface of the Moon.
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