London, Oct 19 (IANS) In a fresh bid to build a permanent human colony on the Moon, the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) have announced their first mission together to be launched in the next five years.
The probe, named “Luna 27,” will explore the freezing “dark” south pole of the Moon to assess whether there is water or any raw materials to create fuel and oxygen, Express.co.uk reported on Sunday.
The initial landing will have robots touching down on the surface and search for clues how to start life.
The mission is designed to ultimately return humans to the Lunar surface for the first time since 1972.
“We have to go to the Moon. The 21st century will be the century when it will be the permanent outpost of human civilisation, and our country has to participate in this process,” Igor Mitrofanov, one of the lead scientists involved with the mission at the Space Research Institute in Moscow, was quoted as saying in the report.
Researchers believe the “dark” side of the moon may contain ice.
Subsequent trips will then prepare humans to land on the surface and find a permanent settlement.
According to Berengere Houdou, the head of the lunar exploration group at ESA, they have the ambition to have European astronauts on the Moon.
At the south pole, the environment is extremely cold and here, large amounts of water and ice can be found.
According to Dr James Carpenter, ESA’s lead scientist, ice can be used in life-support systems to support future human missions which can go to these locations.
Although Russia is leading the lunar project, the ESA is building new landing equipment as well as a high-tech ice drill.
A permanent human base will also provide a launch pad for trips to the Red Planet.
A new study, partly funded by NASA, has also suggested that humans will be able to return to the Moon for approximately 90 percent less cost than previous estimates.
According to the study, the refuelling facilities on the Moon for NASA’s mega-rocket Space Launch System (SLS) will be affordable and less risky than supplying fuels from Earth.
“You basically expand free enterprise to the Moon,” Charles Miller, the study’s principal investigator, was quoted as saying.