Because of the increased workload imposed on Russia when the U.S. suddenly pulled out of the European ExoMars mission, the Russians have imposed a three year delay on their entire program of unmanned science probes.
Although all previously approved projects still remain on the table, the nation’s series of lunar missions face a domino effect of delays. Russia’s first post-Soviet attempt to land on the surface of the Moon was pushed back from 2016 to 2019. Known as Luna-Glob or Luna-25, the unmanned lunar lander was designed to test landing techniques for future lunar missions. On the political front, the successful landing of the Luna-Glob would be a signal to the international scientific community that Russia is back in the planetary exploration business after the 2011 fiasco of the Phobos-Grunt mission.
This report above is a more nuanced analysis than yesterday’s story about the presentation given by the head of the Russia’s Space Research Institute at Saturday’s science conference in Moscow. Today’s story gives the reasoning for the delays, as explained by the Russians themselves, as well as outlines the entire program more thoroughly.
The story describes a string of planned Russian lunar probes, beginning with Luna-Glob. This program was probably approved by the government when the U.S. decided to return to the Moon in 2004 under George Bush. The Russians don’t seem to be able any longer to be self-starters, but instead need the competition from the U.S. to get them jump-started.
Even so, while the U.S. has already flown most of the unmanned probes to the Moon that were proposed in 2004, the Russian program had not yet gotten off the ground.