There’s a basic difference between NASA’s missions and Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency. While NASA wants to explore Mars and deep space, Russia has made it clear that their priority is to explore the Moon with the ultimate goal of establishing a permanent base there. The country has already asked for international partners for help, and Europe is ready to answer the call.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is set to join Russia’s ambitious plan to colonize the Moon, with an announcement that it will provide key tech for a planned exploration mission in 2020, and possibly help construct a permanent outpost.
Roscosmos is currently planning Luna 27, a robotic lander that will land in the Aitken Basin, which is in the South Pole of the Moon. It is a giant crater on the dark side of the Moon. Luna 27 will then prospect for resources that can be used for a permanent human colony on the Moon. Scientists believe there is water ice in the Aitken Basin.
ESA has agreed to provide two key components to the Luna 27 lander – an advanced laser-guiding landing system, called Pilot, and an onboard laboratory to analyze the samples collected by the lander. ESA also has ambitions of sending European astronauts to the Moon.
“The south pole of the Moon is unlike anywhere we have been before”, says James Carpenter, ESA’s lead scientist on the project.
“The environment is completely different, and due to the extreme cold there, you could find large amounts of water-ice and other chemistry which is on the surface, and which we could access and use as rocket fuel or in life-support systems to support future human missions we think will go to these locations”, James adds.
Despite the frigid temperatures and darkness inside the basin itself, there are nearby mountains which bask under constant sunlight, making it the perfect spot to perpetually power solar panels.
Igor Mitrofanov, the lead scientist at Roscosmos says, “We have to go to the Moon. The 21st Century will be the century when it will be the permanent outpost of human civilization. We want to do this together with our international colleagues”.