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Moscow reaches for the moon and beyond

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

The craft, called Luna-Glob, or Moon-Globe, will be carried by the first rocket to blast off from a new facility that Russia is building in its far eastern Amur region, Roskosmos director Vladimir Popovkin said, according to the Interfax news agency.

China already has launched a pair orbiting lunar probes and last year landed a craft on the moon with a rover onboard. Credit: Reuters

“We will begin our exploration of the moon from there,” he said of the new space centre that will decrease Russia's reliance of the Baikonur Cosmodrome in the ex-Soviet nation Kazakhstan, which it leases.

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

The Soviet Union got a jump on the United States in the Cold War space race, sending a probe to the moon in 1959 and putting the first person into space in 1961. But the United States first put a man on the moon in 1969 and Russia has not done so.

The last successful Soviet launch of a unmanned probe to the moon was in the 1970s, and Russia has suffered setbacks in its space program in recent years, including bungled satellite launches and the failure of a Mars probe in 2011.

A successful rocket launch on Tuesday put three military satellites in orbit, the Defence Ministry said.

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

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