The last time was December 14, 1972. Astronaut Gene Cernan etched his fingerprints in the tracks left by his august predecessors, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. Since then, nothing. Man has never set foot on the moon again. Today, Russia reveals its intention to return. And with the European Space Agency (ESA), to install a human community there in 2029.
"Arussia plans its first manned flight to the Moon and a lunar landing in 2029."Vladimir Solntsev, the director of the Russian state-owned company Energia, which designs and develops space vehicles, announced on Tuesday at a conference on space technologies in Moscow. According to him, Russia will launch as early as 2021 the tests of a spacecraft specially designed for the moon. The spacecraft will have to make several flights to the space station (ISS) before leaving for the moon target in 2025.
This announcement comes in a context marked by a Russian space sector long undermined by corruption and budget cuts but now undergoing major restructuring. The Russians still have the insult of having been overtaken by the Americans in the conquest of our satellite. They are struggling to recover from a series of failures in launching their rockets and now want to make it a point of honour to correct their shortcomings. Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin stated before the Duma last May: "The Russian government is not going to be satisfied with this. We cannot lose this competence which contributes to our sovereignty ".
The Russians' ambition for the Moon is thus in line with that of the Europeans. Indeed, the European Space Agency (ESA) has just unveiled its intention to build an International Lunar Village. In cooperation with several space nations and of course the Russians. ESA's new Director General, Johann-Dietrich Woerner, defended his idea of a "Moon Village" before the space community at the 66th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) held in Jerusalem from 12 to 16 October last.
The idea stems from the observation that the International Space Station (ISS) adventure, launched in 1998, is likely to end around 2024.
" We need to think about what we want to do next. Hence the idea of encouraging the international community to do something together on the Moon. "says ESA spokesman Franco Bonacina. « It's about gathering and federating ideas "...around the Earth's satellite, which still has much to teach us. The Director General of ESA, for whom space has no borders, wants to allow everyone to contribute to this lunar village. China, which is not participating in the International Space Station but is conducting an ambitious programme on the Moon, could be welcome.
Bernard Foing, who heads the International Group for Lunar Exploration, described to AFP what the "Moon village" could be: " There will be a robotic village stage. Then a manned station stage. But we'll also use it to prepare for expeditions to even more distant destinations... ".
The association of ESA and Russia in the Luna 27 mission would make it possible to set up lunar bases and begin exploration of our satellite, particularly its polar regions in which ice deposits have been found. « At the South Pole, we have located sites that contain ice in the nearby subsoil, that are fairly well lit and offer good communication possibilities. "says Bernard Foing.
All these elements are necessary to set up an inhabited base, to settle down, to prospect, and to dream of going further.
Earthrise on the Moon - NASA Photo
Some will say that we would be better off taking care of the Earth rather than going back to these lunar adventures. Others will recall that mankind only became aware of the beauty and immense fragility of our planet after seeing the pictures taken by astronauts on the Moon of a superb Earthrise. Perhaps also that, if the Moon becomes a goal again, we will regain our childhood fantasies and finally join all those dreamers of the future who have been promising it to us since Jules Verne. And we will please David Graeber who, in his last book BureaucracyIt saddens me to observe that the future we imagined before 1970 has never really lived up to its beautiful promises since then.