Back in November last year, exciting plans for the UK’s first trip to the Moon, Lunar Mission One, were announced at the Royal Society. Part of the project, which received a hefty £700,000 (over $1 million) through crowdfunding, will involve assessing the feasibility of establishing a permanently manned base on the Moon. But they could be pipped to the post, as now a private Russian company has announced that it already has the resources and capabilities to build its own manned lunar base, and wants to start making it happen.
The company, Lin Industrial, estimates that establishing the base will cost less than $10 billion in total and take around 10 years to construct. The first phase will involve building a lunar outpost, which will be manned by two crew members, followed by a second-stage facility that will house four more crew.
According to the company’s chief designer Alexander Ilyin, the project plans to use existing machinery and equipment that can be produced within the next five years, such as a modernized version of the Angara heavy rocket, which could serve as a carrier. They are also contemplating using the Soyuz rocket’s Fregat upper stage as a basis for the design of a lunar landing module.
Establishing a base won’t be easy; Lin Industrial is planning a total of 37 launches over a period of five years to construct and maintain the base, including 13 heavy carrier rocket launches. The company has proposed a possible deadline for the project, which is ten years from the date that a corresponding decision is made.
As with Lunar Mission One, Lin Industrial has picked the Moon’s South Pole as the location for the settlement. The chosen spot is a flat area near to Malapert Mountain which has the Earth in direct sight, providing good conditions for both communications and landing. “The Sun is shining for 89% of the day on the mount,” notes Ilyin, “the night which takes place there only several times a year does not last more than 3-6 days.”
However, at the moment it is unclear whether this big idea will actually come to fruition. According to Tech Times, the head of Lin Industrial Sergei Burkayovsky has so far only invested $176,000 into the project; around a tenth of what Lunar Mission One has so far raised. That’s not enough to build the first prototype rocket, and is only a sliver of the $13.5 million required to test it.