Russia describes its planned first manned Moon mission

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

To accomplish its first manned lunar landing, tentatively set for 2029, Russia will have to launch six Angara rockets.

According to the source, the launches are planned to be carried out in pairs from the Vostochny cosmodrome (the Amur region in Russia’s Far East) and the Plesetsk cosmodrome (Archangelsk region in the northwest) with small intervals between the blast-offs. Under the proposed scheme, after the orbit placement, the complex with a total weight up to 70 tonnes will be docked with the manned spacecraft, after which it will fly to the Moon. A payload of 18-20 tonnes will be delivered to the lunar orbit by the end of the mission.

According to a preliminary plan, Russia’s first manned flight to the Moon is possible in 2029. One year ahead of that it is planned to conduct a flight around the Moon, the testing and qualification of space systems for the future manned landing. However, this project may become a reality only if the work to create a new-generation manned transport spacecraft, the Angara-A5 rocket, lunar boosters and other needed rocket and space technology and infrastructure is included in the draft Federal Space Program for 2016-2025.

The final draft Federal Space Program, however, has not yet been approved. This story is obviously a lobbying effort within Russia to get this lunar mission included in that master plan.

What strikes me most about all this is the timing. The big national space programs, Russia, China, and NASA’s SLS, are all aiming for big lunar missions in the late 2020s. All will spend a lot of money for a very limited number of flights, mostly single stunts that merely demonstrate that they can do it. None of these programs will have much staying power on the Moon.

Private space is likely aiming for the Moon as well, and will likely be capable of getting there about the same time. However, private space will be cheap and designed to go many many times (for profit). Watching this race between nations and private companies is going to be quite fascinating. And unlike the 1960s space race, which was a race between two different top-down government programs, this 2020s space race will be between bottom-up capitalism versus top-down government.

I think in the end the governments will be very embarrassed. They will either lose, or act to squelch their private competition.


  • Tom Billings

    I agree that there will be a push to make at least the Moon a governmental preserve. The question is ‘how successful will it be’? This, as usual, depends very much on what the US is willing to accept, and as we have seen, administrations like the present one will view foreign policy as a means to placate enemies.

    If it is limited to the Moon, then it will simply push entrepreneurs to the near-earth asteroids, and perhaps to the “temporary” satellites of Earth that are captured asteroids in unstable orbits. It is hard to see a US administration that has not already shut down all opposition in a tyranny, in which case we will have more immediate concerns, agreeing to make all the rest of the universe an “Antarctica in Space”. Still, there are so many nice exploitable lava tube habitat possibilities on the Moon, so close, ……..sigh.

  • mike shupp

    Yes, on the face of it, this is going to appear a competition between sluggish bureaucratic government would-be monopolistic space programs and nimbler, cleverer, profit-oriented entrepreneurs, and we’re all going to be annoyed by national governments that just won’t get out of the way of the more capable private firms.

    I suspect there is stuff we ignore. The major space powers are also major military powers, with military space programs that they prefer to keep under wraps. In the US, for example, DoD and NRO spend 2 to 3 times what NASA spends, but there’s little coverage of that in the main stream press or on the internet. In China, the military runs the visible and the hidden space programs. The Russian programs are obscurely managed, but are still state controlled. And so forth.

    So we’re not going to get governments out of the big-ticket space business, no matter how obvious it seems that they should quit.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *