Everybody seems to want to go to the moon.
NASA has its Artemis program, which the space agency envisions as being an American led effort that will consist of a coalition of international space agencies and commercial companies.
China would like to go to the moon as part of its drive to replace the United States as the sole super power on the planet.
Now, according to Ars Technica, Russia is talking about going to the moon.
Considering its economy and reduced technical capabilities, the idea seems positively quaint.
However, the Russians have a plan if not the means to execute it, as laid out by the head of Russia’s state space corporation, Dmitry Rogozin.
“Under the plan outlined by Rogozin, the country will initially develop a new “Super Heavy” booster with a capacity of 103 metric tons to low Earth orbit and 27 metric tons to Lunar polar orbit.
This is roughly equivalent to an upgraded version of NASA’s Space Launch System, known as Block 1B.
“The plan includes the development of the “Federation” spacecraft by 2022, with its first flight to the International Space Station by 2023.
Deep-space flights of this spacecraft would follow in the mid-2020s, along with a return of lunar soil to Earth using the Luna-Grunt probe in 2027.
“Finally, in 2029, crew flights to lunar orbit would begin, along with flight testing of a lunar lander and an inflatable lunar base module. The crew landing would take place in 2030, although Rogozin said he would like to move those dates earlier if possible.”
Russia has had an unhappy relationship with the moon for the past 60 or so years, ever since the space race started between the Soviet Union and the United States.
The Soviets achieved a number of firsts concerning the moon, first robotic probe to take pictures of the lunar far side, the first soft landing on the moon, and the first robotic sample return mission.
However, the Soviets fell short of the big prize of the first to land human beings on the moon.
President John F. Kennedy threw down the gauntlet during a speech before a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961.
“First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”
With hard work, American ingenuity, and a lot of money, NASA accomplished Kennedy’s challenge on July 20, 1969 with the “one small step” that Neil Armstrong made during the mission of Apollo 11.
The Soviets, even though they had their own lunar program, were left in the moon dust.
The psychological effects on the Soviet government and people were profound and long lasting.
A central part of communist ideology was that the Soviet system represented the future of humankind and that capitalism was the past.
But there was an American, planting the flag of capitalism on the lunar surface, a silent but eloquent taunt at Soviet pretensions
The Soviets never recovered.
12 or so years later, another president, a man named Ronald Reagan, proposed to build a space based missile defense system called the Strategic Defense Initiative.
SDI would make the Soviet nuclear tipped ICBM force obsolete. While many American liberals mocked the idea of missile defense, calling it “Star Wars,” the Soviets were under no such illusions.
The Americans had beat them to the moon. They could do this thing.
The enormous amount of effort and treasure the Soviets expended to overcome SDI sapped the economy of the USSR.
The burden contributed greatly to the final collapse of the Soviet Union just ten years after President Reagan made his historic proposal.
It is therefore understandable that Russia, a nation in decline, would seize upon another attempt to go to the moon as a last gasp effort to assert itself on the world stage.
The problem is, Russia does not have the wherewithal to send cosmonauts to the moon.
The country only has a space program because of the International Space Station alliance and the handsome payments for taking astronauts to and from that orbiting lab on the Soyuz.
The only way that Russian cosmonauts will ever walk on the moon is if Russia join the Artemis coalition.