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Russia to launch major lunar mission in 2012

RIA Novosti

07/12/2006 14:13 MOSCOW, December 7 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will launch its first major mission to the Moon, Luna-Glob, in 2012 after a 30-year break from lunar exploration, a space agency spokesman said Thursday.

Russia, a pioneer in robotic lunar research, abandoned its lunar exploration program with the end of the Moon race in the mid-1970s, but the idea of exploring the Earth's natural satellite has been revisited recently, due to ambitious international projects to develop the Moon's resources and to use it as a stepping-stone for further space exploration.

Igor Panarin, press secretary of Roskosmos, said the unmanned flight will include a lunar orbiter that will fire 12 penetrators across diverse regions of the Moon to create a seismic network, which will be used to study the Moon's origin.

After firing the penetrators, the mother ship will deliver a polar station, equipped with a mass spectrometer and neutron spectrometer, to the surface.

The objective of the station is to detect water ice deposits in the polar zones of the Moon. The device, developed by Russian scientists, will first be tested through NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter project, to be launched in 2008.

Russia is also planning five minor unmanned launches to the Moon between 2008 and 2015.

In the 1950s-1970s, the Soviet Union carried out 60 robotic lunar missions, of which about 20 were partially or fully successful.

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