New Delhi, Aug 18 (EFE).- The landing of space missions from India and Russia next week at the unexplored south pole of the Moon is an indicator of growing interest of several powers to resume their lunar programs with renewed objectives: the establishment of bases and the use of these resources for commercial purposes.
The United States, China, and several countries of the European Union through the European Space Agency, are currently preparing missions back to the Moon, which include the prospect of manned missions on the lunar surface, something that has not happened since 1972.
On July 14, India launched its Moon mission Chandrayaan-3, which entered lunar orbit on Aug. 5 and plans to finally land on its southernmost point on Aug. 23.
If successful, it would make India the fourth nation to land on Earth’s natural satellite, after the United States, Russia and China.
The Russian mission Luna-25 took off on Aug. 11 signifying the resumption of Moscow’s lunar program, which had been paralyzed since 1976, when Russia was still a part of the Soviet Union (USSR).
The Luna-25 mission entered lunar orbit on Thursday, and is expected to remain there until attempting to land on the south pole of the Moon on Aug. 21.
The two probes are to be deployed in different areas of the south pole and their main objectives are to perfect the lunar landing maneuvers and take samples of the surface, including water in the form of ice that they suspect is located in craters that never receive sunlight.
In the next three years, another 10 lunar missions are expected to be launched, with even more ambitious goals than Chandrayaan-3 and Luna-25.
“While the previous missions were essentially aimed at scientific explorations, upcoming ventures will likely involve multiple actors of diverse interests, including those primarily driven by resource utilization for commercial purposes,” ISRO said in a statement this month.
The United States space agency NASA, in collaboration with Canada, the European Union and other countries, has been planning a second mission of its Artemis program Back to the Moon in 2024, with which they intend to collect information and establish a base for possible missions to Mars and beyond in deep space.
The American astronauts Reid Wiserman, Victor Glover and Christina Hammock Koch, plus the Canadian Jeremy Hansen, will orbit the Moon from the Orion capsule over the little known south pole, where water is believed to exist and which could be vital for a possible future colonization.
NASA then has plans for another mission in 2025, Artemis 3, which will mark the return of humans to the lunar surface more than 50 years after the Apollo-17 astronauts stepped on the satellite in 1972.
China announced last spring that it has already started working on sending manned missions for lunar exploration, which it seeks to accomplish by 2030 and become the second country to do so since the US first accomplished it in 1969.
In the next decade, China also seeks to build a scientific exploration base at the south pole of the Moon in collaboration with the Russian space agency Roscosmos.
China has been banned from accessing several international initiatives led by the US such as the International Space Station because of the military ties of its space program,
The future lunar station, scheduled to be operational in 2035, is expected to research star formation and activity, and to search for the possibility of other life forms in the universe, according to its project managers.
The increase in traffic to the Moon, especially of spaceships built to remain in orbit for several years, poses several challenges for scientists of the different space agencies.
The Indian agency recently warned of the need for its experts to execute maneuvers “to avoid collisions” due to the overlap of the orbits of two different probes.
This requires effective coordination between agencies to avoid critical conjunctions in the lunar orbit, for each fresh mission to the Moon.
Added to this is the complexity of the landing maneuvers, which continues to cause mission accidents and the consequent loss of billions of dollars.