Roscosmos seems to not abandoning plans for Moon exploration. One of the main research and development institutions in Russian space industry, Central Research Institute of Machine Building (TsNIIMash) announced about starting preliminary research of lunar base for 12 cosmonauts.
These plans are not something new in the history of Russian space program. Ambitious goals for creating possibility of habitation on the Moon, dates back in the early sixties. They are referring to, what should not be surprising, Sergei Korolev who first raised possibility of permanent habitation on Moon. Unfortunately in long and rich history of development of Russian space industry, Moon became for a long time weak point. Russian cosmonauts have never put their foot on the Moon and most plans referring to our nearest celestial body were abandoned due the financial limitations or simply due the lack of appropriate technology. After starting project of the “Federation” spacecraft, dreams about reaching Moon returned. With development of the spacecraft, multiple plans referring to Moon exploration were announced: from resuming program of robotic exploration with utilization of new generation of Luna space probes to manned mission and landing on the surface. Of course concept of base with possibility of constant habitation also returned but with same unsolved problems. In case of lunar base some problems are unfortunately quite hard to solve even now, decades after first Russian plans for establishing lunar base. First is radiation which is stronger on Moon then on LEO where all previous space bases were placed. Another problem is micro asteroids which are constantly hitting into Moon surface. Next is life support system which should extremely reliable and along with base appropriate possibility for resupplying mission should be created. Also it would be extremely useful if there would be possibility of food and water production in base. These problems are of course nothing new and on the solution space industry around the world are working from many years, but still at the moment most problems are not able to be solved in 100%.
Russian “Izviestia” announced that TsNIIMash returned to developing concept of lunar outpost based on program created in the sixties and seventies by KBOM design office. According to spokesman of TsNIIMash Olga Zharova, Institute is in progress of research on possibilities of establishing Moon base providing conditions for long term habitation. This project will be based on preliminary design by KBOM design office; TsNIIMash is targeting with first modules delivered to the Moon in the 2030’s. First phase will cover habitable module with 20 cubic meters of habitable space for 4 cosmonauts with final objective of base able to provide life support and space for 12 crew members. In fact lunar base conception is still in very early phase; for cost reducing it is planned to adopt various ideas from KBOM project. Unfortunately due the budget cutting during next decade, Moon program will be reduced comparing to previous plans: first Moon flight with “Federation” is planned for 2025 and Moon landing with Russian cosmonauts is not even under discussion. But still “Federation” and its lifting rocket Angara are under development and facts like moving forward launch of Angara for the end of 2016 instead of 2017 and changing date of Moon flight with “Federation from second half of the 2020s to 2025 points that Moon is still one of the focal points of the Russian space program.
KBOM with its chief Vladimir Barmin was responsible in USSR for creating space launch complexes. Vladimir Barmin established in his design office special department which only goal was research on future possibilities of establishing lunar outpost. Program was developed in the cooperation with various science and research institutions in USSR like Moscow University, Kiev Research Institute of Theory and History of Architecture, Institute of Medico-Biological Science or Geology and Chemistry Institute, GEOKhI, of the Academy of Sciences USSR. It shows how deeply this program was prepared and how serious it was treaded by authorities. Result of the program was special report with preliminary design of the base with postulate for establishing base for 4 to 12 cosmonauts. In the first half of seventies full scale mockup of the future habitation module was built for further analysis, testing various technologies and ergonomics trials. In the 1974 when Soviet Moon program was cancelled, KBOM project assumed one year habitation for 4 to 12 cosmonauts in many buildings: habitable section, power supply center, astronomy lab, workshop and garage. Modules would be covered with regolith for radiation and asteroids protection. Each module would be pressurized and equipped in thermal control system, data processing units, communication systems and life support systems. Power supply was planned as nuclear based, but KBOM also considered using solar arrays and rechargeable batteries but in sixties and seventies these systems were not as efficient as at present times and nuclear plant was considered as most efficient and reliable. Power supply module was planned to remain uncovered with soil. Concept design assumed also creating lunar rover with operating range of 250 km and able to provide life support for 14 days. It was also pretty natural that establishing such base on the Moon it would be necessary to equipped rover with heavy equipment accessories like bulldozer, grader, crane and excavator arm to cover modules with soil or dig holes, or to design special lunar construction equipment. Total weight of modules, equipment and machines was calculated for 52 tons; N1 and Proton rockets were able to deliver such cargo to the Moon in multiple missions.