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Russia, India sign joint lunar research deal

RIA Novosti

12/11/2007 14:22 MOSCOW, November 12 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Federal Space Agency (Roskosmos) and the Indian Department of Space have signed a joint lunar research and exploration agreement, the Russian agency said on Monday.

The agreement was signed by Roskosmos chief Anatoly Perminov and Madhavan Nair, secretary of India's Department of Space and chairman of the Space Commission. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is currently on an official visit to Moscow.

Georgy Polishchuk, general director of Russia's Lavochkin design bureau, said Russia would launch an unmanned mission to the Moon, Luna-Glob, in 2010. The second mission, which will include putting a new-generation 400-kg Lunokhod unmanned rover on the Moon, will start in 2011.

"The first mission will be solely Russian, but the second will be carried out in conjunction with India," Polishchuk said.

He said India will provide a rocket and a flight module for the mission, which will be launched from an Indian space center.

The third and fourth stages (2012-2015) will include the study of mineral resources and other scientific and research experiments on the Moon.

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.

Roskosmos said earlier its first 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.

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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