Project Management Institute

Dark side of the moon partners

Russia and Europe's space agency plan a project to explore the moon's perpetually sunless south pole

Russia is partnering with Europe's space agency on a project to send an unmanned craft to the moon's unexplored and perpetually dark south pole—a marked departure from the secrecy and competition that characterized the Cold War-era space race.


Russia and the European Space Agency are partnering to send an unmanned craft to the moon.

The new cooperative effort “feels like the beginning of the return to the moon, but it is also starting something new in terms of overall exploration of the solar system,” Richard Fisackerly, a systems engineer at the European Space Agency (ESA), told BBC News.

The project, expected to be formally approved late this year and launched in 2020, will search for water—in ice form—and other materials to determine whether the moon could someday support a permanent human settlement.

“The south pole of the moon is unlike anywhere we have been before,” James Carpenter, ESA's lead scientist on the project, told the BBC. The area is one of the coldest spots in the solar system.

Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, will provide the spacecraft, while the ESA will offer a laser-guided landing system and a laboratory to analyze samples gathered from the moon's surface.

The Soviet Union's last lunar mission was in 1976. —Brigid Sweeney


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