In a video posted on Twitter this past Saturday, Dmitry Rogozin, the director general of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, suggested that one goal of their planned 2029 manned Moon landing mission will be to confirm whether the American Apollo missions were real or faked.
“We have set this objective to fly and verify whether they’ve been there or not,” Rogozin said at a press conference, with Moldovan President Igor Dodon, that discussed the possibility of a multi-nation-operated Moon base.
But, before any conspiracy theorists get too excited, it appears that Rogozin was joking. Despite the long-standing competition – and in the past, outright hostility – between Roscosmos and NASA, no self-respecting scientist believes that the six Apollo missions that successfully ferried humans to the Moon’s surface between 1969 and 1972 were part of an elaborate hoax.
As reported by the Associated Press, Rogozin’s comment was not made in a declarative speech, but rather in response to an audience question about the possibility of the NASA Moon conspiracy, which continues to be popular in Russia. While speaking, he smirked and shrugged in a wry fashion.
Announced in 2015, Roscosmos’ revitalized lunar program will kick into high gear when the unmanned Luna 25 lander arrives at the Moon’s south pole, from which the vehicle will explore potential manned mission landing sites. Initially proposed in 1997, Luna 25 is slated to launch in 2024.
Currently, however, Roscosmos is sidetracked by issues involving the Soyuz capsule system that transports astronauts to and from the International Space Station.
Meanwhile, in yet another yes-this-really-happened feat, yesterday afternoon, NASA’s InSight lander touched down on the surface of Mars, in a large volcanic plain called Elysium Planitia. Loaded with a bevy of instruments that will investigate the Red Planet’s interior and plate tectonics (shifts of which are adorably called Marsquakes), InSight is the eighth NASA rover to land successfully on Mars.
Just minutes after it seamlessly executed the “seven minutes of terror” automated landing protocol at 2.53pm EST (7.53pm GMT) on November 26, InSight sent back its first image of the equator-straddling volcanic region.
The stationary rover is scheduled for operations up to November 2020, but like the expectation-defying Curiosity rover (now on year six and counting of an originally two-year planned mission), InSight may continue investigations for some time after.