Russia revives lunar rovers


10/21/16 as  reported by the Russian Academy of Science
RAS Council on Space decided to start works on creating a rover for the exploration of the moon.
Council of the Russian Academy of Sciences on Space decided to restore a study program of the exploration of the Moon by the rovers. As part of scientific research (R&D program) “Luna Lunokhod”, this year it is planned to begin development of a project image of the spacecraft and to prepare scientific description of the problems that could be solved by moon rovers. It is noteworthy that companies involved in the implementation of R&D program are just the same organizations that participated in the creation of the Soviet lunar rovers.
Information about the launch of a research project “Luna Lunokhod” is given after the meeting of the RAS Council on space: in 2016, it is planned to allocate 18 million rubles for this program. The prime contractor is defined as Space Research Institute of RAS (IKI), co-authors of works are called TsNIImash (head scientific organization “Roskosmos”), Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry of RAS, Kotelnikov Institute of Radio Engineering and Electronics of RAS, Lavochkin Association (enterprise where created Soviet rovers) VNIITransmash (enterprise where wheels for rovers were manufactured) and Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University.
– Yes, the decision on the organization of research project “Luna Lunokhod” was made and works should begin – said to “Izvestia” the head of the department of nuclear planetology of IKI, Prof Dr Igor Mitrofanov. – So far, the program does not start because the RAS Council on space decision was sent to state corporation “Roscosmos”, which is now responsible for forming work plan and preparing contracts. When we get the signal from the “Roskosmos” that appropriate measures have been taken, the IKI will choose the staff who will be engaged in this project and define our subcontractors. I think that the number one among them will be the Vernadsky Institute and they will actively participate in this project.
In the 1960s of the last century, the Soviet rovers were created in Lavochkin Design Bureau by the research group led by George Babakin. To study the properties of the lunar surface, these devices are used for photography and telephotography the Moon, studying the effect of solar radiation and other studies.
The first rover (“Lunokhod-0”) was launched to the Moon on February 19, 1969, but due to the destruction of the rocket, mission ended prematurely. After it, “Lunokhod-1” has been successfully delivered to the surface of the satellite on November 17, 1970 and had fully implemented research program. “Lunokhod-2” has arrived at the Moon on January 15, 1973. For four months, he covered 42 km, transmitted to the Earth 86 panoramas and about 80 thousand telephoto shots. The device was able to work longer, but at the exit from the crater, it scooped up the lid of the lunar soil, which then hit the solar panel and the battery stops charging. Lunokhod quickly disconnected and forever froze on the edge of the Sea of Serenity.
It was planned that “Lunokhod-3” would be delivered to the satellite in 1977, the device was produced, but the expedition had been eventually canceled. This still workable “Lunokhod-3” is located at the Lavochkin Museum. The next rover reached the lunar surface more than 40 years after; it was a Chinese unit “Yutu” which worked on satellite of the Earth more than one and a half year.
For the next decade Russian lunar program calls for a gradual exploration of the Moon, firstly by the unmanned automatic systems (current projects “Luna-Glob” and “Luna-Resource”), and then, probably in the early 2030s, a manned expedition to the satellite of the Earth, followed by the creation of habitable base.
According to Igor Mitrofanov, the embodiment of the Lunokhod in “iron” and its launch are expected towards the end of the 2020s.
Director of Space Policy Institute, Ivan Moiseyev told that the cooperation within the framework of research program “Luna Lunokhod” includes enterprises that participated in the creation of the Soviet lunar rovers.
– Many invented and developed soviet technology approaches can be used today, such as the original motor rover system, – says Ivan Moiseyev. – Devices can be made much easier now due to new materials, better instrumentation. This allows to run them not by powerful missiles, but by the same “Soyuz”, for example… Despite the fact that the Moon was explored by both people and automatic systems, we know very little about the satellite of Earth. Exploration of the Moon by automatic complexes can be relatively inexpensive, but at the same time, this is a significant contribution of Russia to the world science.
In “Roskosmos”, it have stated that they know about this project, but they consider that it is premature to start a public debate.
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