Russia Announces Plans to Send Unmanned Probe to the Moon in 2015

Russia will revive a long-idle quest to explore the moon by sending an unmanned probe to the moon in 2015, the head of the Russian space agency was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

The unmanned craft, called Luna-Glob, or Moon-Globe, will be carried by the first rocket to blast off from a new facility that Russia is currently building in its far eastern Amur region. Speaking of the new space center that will decrease Russia's reliance on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the ex-Soviet nation Kazakhstan, which it leases, Roskosmos director Vladimir Popovkin said:

"We will begin our exploration of the moon from there."

Russian space officials say that Luna-Glob would consist of an orbital module and a probe that would land on the moon and beam back information about samples that it takes from the surface.

During the Cold War era space race, the Soviet Union beat the United States to the moon, sending a probe to the moon in 1959 and put the first person into space 1961. However, the U.S. put a man on the moon first in 1969. Russia had not done so. The last successful Soviet launch of an unmanned probe to the moon was in the 1970s. In recent years, Russia has suffered several setbacks in its space program in recent years, including the failure of a Mars probe in 2011 and bungled satellite launches.

On Tuesday, a successful rocket launch put three military satellites in orbit, announced the Defense Ministry.

Last month, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev approved a plan to spend $2.1 trillion roubles ($70 billion) on space industry development in 2013-2020, to pursue projects to explore the moon and Mars, amongst other things.