If the past 2021 is a big year for Mars exploration, then 2022 will usher in a boom in lunar exploration. CNN described it, “In 2022, almost everyone wants to put a probe on the moon.”
According to the statistics of the US “Space” website, Russia, India, South Korea, Japan and other countries will try to send probes to the moon this year. The United States will test-launch two types of heavy rockets needed for manned moon landings within the year. At the same time, the fourth phase of China’s lunar exploration project has also attracted the keen attention of overseas media.
- After 46 years, Russia returns to the moon
Among the countries planning to land on the moon in 2022, Russia’s lunar exploration program has received the most attention. This will be Russia’s first lunar probe since the end of the Soviet era.
It inherited the name of the Soviet “Lunar” series of probes and was named “Lunar-25”. The launch of the Luna-24 probe goes back to 1976.
The British “Guardian” website recalled on January 3 that as early as the 1990s. Russia is trying to resume sending probes to the moon. But due to funding gaps, technical obstacles and problems with international cooperation. The plan suffered repeated setbacks. According to earlier plans, Russia is preparing to launch the Luna-25 probe in 2021. However, equipment failure was found during ground inspection, and the launch time was delayed again. Due to the influence of the relationship between the Earth and the Moon, the current suitable launch time window is July 2022.
According to the plan, Luna-25 will land near the Boguslavsky crater at the south pole of the moon. It does not carry a lunar rover, and it is expected to obtain samples mainly through a robotic arm after landing. And use 6 kinds of scientific instruments to carry out research.
“Lunar-25” will operate on the lunar surface for a year, mainly to study the composition of polar regolith. As well as plasma and dust in the moon’s polar outer atmosphere. At the same time, the “Lunar-25” is also responsible for verifying the landing technology for Russia’s subsequent lunar landing program. At the same time, the potential available water resources under the permanent ice layer of the lunar south pole were surveyed.
CNN mentioned, except for Russia. India will also launch the Chandrayaan-3 probe this year in an attempt to land on the moon again. According to reports, in 2008, India launched its first unmanned lunar probe, Chandrayaan-1. It orbited the moon for nearly a year and “played a key role in discovering the presence of water molecules on the moon.”
In 2019, Chandrayaan-2 attempted to land near the south pole of the moon, but lost contact and crashed during the landing. But Chandrayaan-2’s orbiter continues to orbit the moon, and it will be used as a communications relay for Chandrayaan-3. Chandrayaan-3, expected to launch this year, will include a lander and a rover.
According to the “Nikkei Chinese Network” report on January 5, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will officially launch lunar exploration activities in 2022. Its core is the launch of the “SLIM” probe that can accurately land on the moon. Which can control the error range of the lunar landing within 100 meters. Based on the experience of this moon landing, Japan and India will jointly launch a new lunar probe in 2023.
In addition, the “Pathfinder” lunar orbiter will be the centerpiece of South Korea’s first lunar exploration. The country is working on developing space technology. The project is hosted by the Korea Aerospace Research Agency, and the vehicle will carry six major scientific research equipment. It is planned to take off in August 2022 on the Falcon 9 rocket of SpaceX.
- The United States tests two major lunar rockets
The United States, which has the most experience in lunar exploration, focuses its energy on the manned lunar landing project. According to the website of the New York Times in the United States, it is the core of NASA’s lunar landing program. Two new heavy-lift rockets will enter space for the first time in 2022. “each of which is more powerful than the Saturn V rocket in the Apollo moon landing program.”
The US “Space” website stated that it was delayed several times due to research and development obstacles. NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) Heavy rocket will have its first launch as early as March 2022. It will be the first in a series of rocket launches for NASA’s Artemis manned lunar landing program.
SLS will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Put the Orion spacecraft without astronauts into lunar orbit.
As planned, its second launch will utilize the same orbit for a crewed flight. The third launch will achieve a manned moon landing.
At the same time, SpaceX’s “Starship” heavy rocket will also play an important role in NASA’s return to the moon plan, and it will be used as a lander when the United States manned the moon around 2025. According to SpaceX’s plan, the first unmanned launch of the “Starship” may take place in mid-2022.
In addition, NASA will launch a small satellite into lunar orbit in 2022 to study possible effects on objects in elliptical orbits. Two NASA-funded startups will also try to send small probes to the moon in 2022.
- The fourth phase of China’s lunar exploration project attracts attention
In recent years, China has made continuous achievements in the field of lunar exploration, so the news that the fourth phase of China’s lunar exploration project has been approved has also attracted widespread attention from the outside world.
The US “Space” website quoted Chinese official news as saying that the fourth phase of China’s lunar exploration project includes the Chang’e 6, Chang’e 7 and Chang’e 8 missions. These three tasks will be implemented successively over the next ten years. According to the plan, the Chang’e 7 probe was first launched to the south pole of the moon.
Then, the backup Chang’e 6, the backup of Chang’e 5, will be launched for sampling return at the south pole of the moon. After Chang’e 6, Chang’e 8 will be launched to establish the basic model of the lunar scientific research station.
Wu Yanhua, deputy director of the National Space Administration, said, “These three missions are mainly led by China, and we are also preparing to cooperate with Russia to build a basic type of lunar scientific research station. Better explore the moon’s environment and resources, including how to peacefully utilize and develop lunar resources. A solid foundation.”