ROSCOSMOS GIVES OK TO THE LUNA-25
Luna-25. Credit: Sputnik News
The new Russian Lunar Program will begin with the Luna-25 (or Luna-Glob-Lander) mission in 2018. The spacecraft should land in the vicinity of the lunar South pole and analyze regolith samples. This latter mission will be followed by the Luna-26 (or Luna-Resurs-Orbiter) orbital mission in 2019. The Moon will be studied from a polar orbit of about 50 to 100 km. Once the main mission iscompleted, the spacecraft will rise to an orbit of about 500 km to study cosmic rays, according to the LORD experiment.
For the Luna-27 landing mission (or Luna-Resurs-Lander), the European Space Agency (ESA) is considering a partnership with the Russian Space Agency. The main objective is to install a drill and a sampling device on the spacecraft, which should permit in-situ analysis of regolith. The Launch is planned for 2020 or later.
Credit: Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences
These missions are currently in the Federal Space program of Russia for 2016–2025, which is now under consideration by the Russian Government. Also, the joint efforts are now in progress with colleagues of the ESA to establish the commonly beneficial cooperation in Moon exploration. ESA elements and services for Luna 25-27 and, the joint implementation of the LPSR/Luna-Grunt project, are seriously considered.
The next step will be the Lunar Polar Sample Return mission (LPSR, or Luna-Grunt) to study polar samples in Earth's laboratories. This is the Luna-28 mission. Several technological issues are to be solved, such as cryogenic delivery of the Moon's permafrost from the poles, before considering the finale launch date. The Luna-29 sample return mission is planned for 2024.
The last in the row of Soviet missions was Luna 24 (“Luna” is Russian for “Moon”) sample return mission in 1976.
New missions, unlike their predecessors, are targeted at lunar poles, which were poorly explored during early lunar programs in 1960's and 1970's. However, recent discoveries made by NASA's Clementine, Lunar Prospector, and most recent Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter gave strong evidence in support of various lunar volatiles, and above all, water ice, in lunar regolith near poles. Roscosmos has contributed important scientific results in these studies with Russian-contributed neutron telescope LEND onboard the LRO spacecraft. This may indicate more diverse and dynamic environment on the Moon, than assumed. Moreover, such volatiles may be used later as possible sources for lunar base.
Credit: Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences
ESA CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE RUSSIAN LUNA MISSIONS
The Moon is the next destination for human exploration after Low Earth Orbit and is a frontier which will be opened in the coming decades. Accessing and utilizing the surface of the Moon is a priority for the European Space Agency (ESA). The Agency is working to gain accessed the surface, exploit this access and establish European capabilities and roles for participation in future exploration missions.
The first opportunity for ESA to access the Moon’s surface will be through contributions to the Russia Luna missions: Luna-25 lander, Luna-26 orbiter and Luna-27 lander. The areas will be the precision landing, the hazard avoidance, communications, drilling, sampling and sample analysis as well as the ground support. All of these contributions prepare ESA for up-coming international missions, such as the Lunar Polar Sample Return and eventually, for human lunar surface missions.
The Package for Resource Observation and in-Situ Prospecting for Exploration, Commercial exploitation and Transportation (PROSPECT) is being developed by ESA for flight on the Russian Luna-27 mission planned for 2020. PROSPECT is a drilling, sampling and sample analysis end to end chain that will support the identification of potential resources, and assess the potential utilization of those resources.
LUNAR ICE DRILL. Credit: ESA
The PROSPECT system concept and its functions. Credit: ESA
PROSPECT's drill (ProSEED) will drill beneath the surface in the South Pole region of the Moon and extract samples. Those samples are expected to contain water ice and other chemicals that can become trapped at the extremely low temperatures, typically -150 °C beneath the surface to lower than -200 °C in some areas. Samples taken by the drill will be passed to a chemical laboratory (ProSPA), where they will be heated to extract these cold-trapped volatiles. Thermochemical processes, at temperatures of up to 1000 °C, can be used to further extract chemical species, including oxygen. This will test processes that could be applied for resource extraction in the future.
A drill designed to penetrate 1–2 m into the lunar surface is envisaged by ESA to fly to the Moon’s south pole on Russia’s Luna-27 lander in 2020. Developed by Finmeccanica in Nerviano, Italy, the drill will first penetrate into the frozen ‘regolith’ and then deliver the samples to a chemical laboratory, which is being developed by the UK’s Open University. The development team has tested the drill design with simulated lunar soil cooled to –140°C , the typical temperature of the expected landing site of Luna-27. But, the permanently shadowed regions of the Moon are known to be even colder, at down to –240°C.
PROSPECT will also perform investigations into resource extraction methodologies that maybe applied at larger scales in the future and provide data with important implications for fundamental scientific investigations on the Moon.
The package will drill and extract samples from depths of up to 2m beneath the surface. In the Polar Regions, these samples may contain significant quantities of water ice and other volatiles, which are of high scientific interest. However, drilling and sampling will be challenging by new uncertainties on the material properties and requirements for sample preservation.
Images and infrared spectra will also be recorded in order to support the operations and to measure mineralogy and water content in the excavated soils.
Once delivered to ovens, the package will extract water, oxygen and other chemicals of interest in the context of resources. The package is being defined to target water ice which is present in the Polar Regions, but also the solar wind implanted in volatiles at all locations on the Moon. These chemicals can be extracted through heating alone and through the introduction of reagents to the samples. Once extracted, the chemistry of interest shall be identified and their abundances determined.
Finally comprehensive measurements of the isotopes of elements of interest will be made with reference to standards, such that they can be compared to measurements made in terrestrial laboratories. These isotopic measurements can be used to determine the origins and emplacement processes of the volatiles of interest.
A LANDING SITE FOR THERUSSIA'S LUNA-GLOB
The Russian Luna-Glob mission, currently scheduled for launch in the mid-2020s, will study the physical conditions and composition of the regolith near the lunar south pole, as well as test new soft-landing technologies.
A portion of a new geologic map of the interior of Boguslawsky crater, proposed site of the next Russian mission to the lunar surface [Ivanov et al., 2015].