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There’s been so much in the news lately about Mars that NASA and other organizations seem to be solely focused on conquering the Red Planet. These efforts have completely neglected our Moon, which hosted the first manned space expedition to a body outside of our Earth. The notion with regards to the Moon lately seems to be “been there, done that,” but Russia has plans for that gray, dusty, tide-controlling celestial orb.

Teaming up with the European Space Agency, Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, have their sights set on creating a human settlement on the Moon – the dark side of the Moon to be more exact. Turns out Pink Floyd may have been on to something. The Moon’s darkest regions, housed in an area known as the South Pole Aitken basin, are thought to contain raw materials that could be harvested into fuel and oxygen. Because these regions hardly ever see direct sunlight, they represent some of the coldest spots in our solar system. The hope is that this cloaked part of the Moon might also be home to ice water and other frozen chemicals.

The project, entitled Luna 27, is meant to study, search for, and hopefully find and harvest these elements. Russia isn’t playing around with their latest cosmic venture – they’re hoping to have this settlement firmly implanted on the Moon’s surface in a mere five years.

“The south pole of the Moon is unlike anywhere we have been before. The environment is completely different, and due to the extreme cold there you could find large amounts of water-ice and other chemistry which is on the surface, and which we could access and use as rocket fuel or in life-support systems to support future human missions we think will go to these locations,” Dr. James Carpenter, the lead scientist at the ESA, explained.

Certainly there must be cause to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to return to the desolate natural satellite circling our planet, especially considering how oft ignored the Moon has become in recent space expeditions. Turns out, studying the Moon could hold the keys to learning more about the genesis of life.

“We have to go to the Moon. The 21st Century will be the century when it will be the permanent outpost of human civilization, and our country has to participate in this process,” Professor Igor Mitrofanov said. “It will be for astronomical observation, for the utilization of minerals and other lunar resources and to create an outpost that can be visited by cosmonauts working together as a test bed for their future flight to Mars.”

While the Moon may not represent a hotspot destination for NASA and U.S. astronauts, those in Russia, Europe and China all have goals to travel and research the Moon in some form in the coming years. But lest you think this is another international space race, think again. With the partnerships between Roscosmos and the ESA, and the welcome cooperation with the Chinese, this is a true example of international teamwork when it comes to getting a human back to the Moon.

With the ESA having already drawn up plans for a human settlement on the Moon to be a crucial aspect of Russia’s Luna 27 mission, this inspiring display of camaraderie could yield some game changing discoveries when it comes to learning more about the origins of our universe.

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