The Soviets designed a permanent lunar base
NASA wants to be back to the Moon in 2020, as a step closer to Mars, on which the US space agency has to land in 2030, but in the meantime the journalist Anatoly Zak, specializing in the history of space exploration, discovered that in the running for the conquest of the Moon Moscow had a plan, developed in 1967, to set up a permanent base on our satellite.
For years ufologists and conspiracy enthusiasts have suspected that first Ussr then Russia had secret installations on the Moon, now it turns out that it officially never existed, but an attempt was truly made (and who knows if it was not really made, at least to some extent). Soviet engineers were hoping to start building their lunar outpost thanks to two Lunar Engineering Machine multipurpose (LIM), two rovers of three tons each that can explore the terrain, smooth it, pierce it and build a permanent installation.
To get them moving the Soviets had also developed an internal combustion engine with four cylinders, that would burn self-ignition rocket fuel, a mixture of liquid fuel and oxidant. The engine would have been sufficient to make the vehicle move, but to deal with particularly difficult terrain there was also the possibility to activate four-wheel drive, designed to be flexible so as to eliminate any complicated suspension systems.
The LIM would have to create prefabricated housing modules of the base to be positioned below the lunar surface, to provide a reliable shield against radiation, so that its inhabitants could survive for long. Not only: thanks to a mechanical shovel attached to the LIM they would have cut out from areas with harder surface 255 square blocks of soil, to be used to build a protective wall around the future base, while the hole in the ground created by the excavation of the blocks would be used as the bed of radiation shelter.
The habitation module would be a self-propelled self-burying cylinder six meters long, 6 meters long, 3.6 meters wide, fully equipped to accommodate up to six cosmonauts inside. After arrival to the Moon, the module would have searched a perfect place to position itself, then once reached the right depth, the mission control would ensure that the module should reach its ceiling facing up. A telescopic airlock would extend from the module to provide an access to the crew from the lunar surface.
According to Soviet engineers it would take the module about 4.3 hours to bury itself completely below the lunar surface. At that point it would have remained almost invisible from the outside, except for the airlock. Could it be that the project, which officially has never got beyond the initial phase of the study, could have really reached the Moon and created a secret Soviet outpost?
Impossible at the moment to have an answer to the question, certainly now that the US, Russia and Europe are considering a new space collaboration to return to the Moon after the International Space Station will have exhausted its useful life, in 2020, Soviet studies of the Seventies may be the starting point for realizing officially the first manned lunar base.