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Major new venture to the Moon to blast-off from the Russian Far East

By The Siberian Times reporter
16 January 2013

Russia is to launch an unmanned mission to the Moon as the first blast-off from the new Cosmodrome currently being constructed in Amur region.

The use of the new launch pad on the eastern edge of Siberia will reduce Russia's reliance on the leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in the ex-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. Picture: Russian Federal Space Agency

'We will begin our exploration of the Moon from there,' said Roskosmos director Vladimir Popovkin.

Called Luna-Glob, or Moon-Globe, it will launch from the new Vostochny facility.  It will comprise an orbiting module and a probe which will land on the Moon and beam back data on samples it grabs from the surface. 

This will be the first of four missions culminating in a fully robotic lunar base scheduled after 2015. The aim is 'a programme for detailed study of the Moon'.

'The orbiter will have a payload of 120 kilograms (260 pounds), including equipment for astrophysics experiments, dust monitors, and plasma sensors to study ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays,' said RIA Novosti. 

It is believed manned flights to the Moon could come in 2018. 

The first Soviet probe to the Moon was in 1959 two years before Yuri Gagarin's historic first manned space flight. But the USSR and Russia have so far not put a man on the Moon. 

The use of the new launch pad on the eastern edge of Siberia will reduce Russia's reliance on the leased Baikonur Cosmodrome in the ex-Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. 

It is one of a slew of state-sponsored projects aimed at reviving the economy of the east of the country and boosting standards of living. 

The latest lunar ventures are part of $70 billion space industry plans up to 2020 aimed at exploration of the Moon and Mars. 

Russia is also seeking to replace its Soyuz rockets, the workhorse of space travel since the 1960s. 

The plan is 'the development of an entirely new class of interplanetary travel technology and technology (enabling) human activity on the planets'.

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