Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, will send three automated rovers to the moon from 2016 to 2019 as part of its plan to eventually send a manned mission to Mars, according to agency head Oleg Ostapenko.
"Stage one priority is research projects to be carried out by automated rovers on the moon and Mars," Ostapenko told Rossiyskaya Gazeta in an interview that will be published on Wednesday. "These plans will be officially committed to paper in a new federal space program. State financing will be provided for the building of three lunar surface vehicles – Luna-25, Luna-26, and Luna-27. The first one will be launched in 2016, the second one – in 2018, and the third one – in 2019."
Luna-25 will land around the moon’s south pole for a demonstration mission, Ostapenko said.
Luna-26 will travel along the moon’s orbit to conduct remote probing and data relaying.
A third vehicle will carry a drilling unit to search for water ice in sub-polar regions.
Following this initial stage of the lunar plan, Roscosmos will move to the next phase, which will involve the delivery of moon soil to Earth by Luna-28 and Luna-29.
Ostapenko said Roscosmos hopes to establish permanent lunar research bases.
"Relevant technologies are now being developed. Researchers are working on options of long-term autonomous stay of humans on the Moon. As an option, we look at a possibility to place a powerful observatory there. Obviously, we will have to build a space platform to perform intermediary tasks. And to solve many other related problems," he said.