It has been 46 years since Neil Armstrong and crew first set foot on the moon in 1969 and 41 years since the Apollo 17 mission put the last two people, Gene Cernan and Harrison ‘Jack’ Schmitt, on the moon in 1972. Now, in the 21st century, human beings will not only walk on the moon again, but they will also live there in a permanent base.
At least that’s the plan created by a joint mission established by the Federal Space Agency of Russia, also known as Roscosmo, and the European Space Agency. The mission, titled Luna 27, will be taking place in the southern polar region of the moon, an area known to astronomers as the South Pole-Aiken.
While a permanent moon base is the ultimate goal of the mission, the progression will start logically with an unmanned mission featuring robotic probes. These initial missions will focus on bringing in supplies for future missions, and establishing an optimal spot for the base.
This will be followed by manned missions, which will over time construct a habitat for lunar researchers to live in over time. Their habitat will have a modular design, consisting of silver dome-like structures connected by hallways, and it will be equipped with everything the inhabitants need for extended expeditions.
Frozen water will be the focus of Luna 27’s research goals. Scientists hope to find water to provide mission personnel with drinking water, as well as the means to create rocket fuel. The idea is that frozen water will be found on the southern pol, which is much colder than the surface seen from Earth, as it is completely shaded from the light of the sun.
The plans for Luna 27 have been in the works between the two agencies for quite some time, with the recent announcements indicating that its commencement will likely happen in the near future. In fact, Russia plans to have completed two unmanned missions by the year 2020. Unfortunately, Rosmocos has had its share of setbacks in recent times, including being terribly underfunded for much of the 1990s and early 2000s and losing Phobos, a probe bound for a Martian moon that recently crashed into the Pacific Ocean.
Despite this, the agencies are confident in the Luna 27 mission. Putting boots back on the lunar surface could be nothing but a step forward in space exploration, both within our solar system and beyond it. The lunar base, which has a planned date of completion sometime in the 2020s, will likely play a critical role in the goal of putting astronauts on Mars.
While the idea of putting people on Mars would undoubtedly be fantastic, the very notion of a lunar base–something that once only existed in the minds of science fiction writers–becoming a reality will surely have profound effects on not only the scientific advancements of the human race as a whole, but also the imaginations of individuals all over the world.