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Russia — in a joint mission with the European Space Agency — will reportedly take the first-ever topographic 3D map of the Moon to narrow down a potential landing site, should future cosmonauts ever attempt a landing there, reports RT.
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Russia announces ambitions for the moon
Director of the Russian Space Research Institute Anatoly Petrukovich announced his plans on Sunday, adding that the 3D map will be made using stereo imaging, and will have a resolution of two to three meters, according to RT.
A Russian-language website, Lenta.ru, states roughly that "Russia will create a three-dimensional map of the moon and choose a place for the landing of [cosmonauts]," which suggests the existence of plans to land humans — putatively from Russia — on the Moon.
"After the work of the American satellites, we have planar maps of the Lunar surface, but here, using stereo processing and light analysis, we will get a universal altitudes (sic) map of the entire Moon with high accuracy," said Petrukovich, RT reports.
The ESA confirms it is working with Roscosmos — the Russian space agency — to make a trip to the Moon via the latter's Luna missions, according to the ESA website.
If Russia creates a 3D map of the Moon, it will allow Russian researchers to study lunar structures, and their history, which in turn will provide critical information for future manned and unmanned missions to the Moon.
Petrukovich added that the map will have several advantages over present-day "flat" maps, like greater accuracy and detail of the elevation of various regions of Earth's main satellite.
Russia also reportedly has plans to send a series of rovers to the Moon during the 2020s. The first mission, called Luna-25, is scheduled to launch in October 2021. Two years later, the Luna-26 orbiter, reportedly slated for a 2024 launch, will carry out what would be a groundbreaking survey of the Moon.
Imaging the Moon
Russia and ESA will then make further landings on the Moon, according to the ESA website. Notably, the Luna-27 lander will be launched a year after Luna-26, larger than its predecessor, Luna-25.
"It will fly to a challenging landing site closer to the lunar south pole using a European system called Pilot as its main navigation system," says the ESA website.
The craft's optical navigation system will process images in-Lunar-situ, identifying landmarks like craters using software similar to facial recognition technology. If these missions to the Moon go forward as planned (or reported), the 2020s may see a revolution in our visual, geological (lunar-logical?), and chemical understanding of the Moon.