Russia to launch series of US satellites to moon
MOSCOW (AFP) Nov 27, 2002
A joint Russo-Ukrainian space agency will launch a series of US-owned spacecraft for the Moon's exploration next year, the Kosmotras agency's officials said.

The Russian-made Dnepr rockets would carry satellites that would take pictures of the Moon's surface and then land on the Moon, officials said late Tuesday as quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency.

Ultimately the small spacecraft would be able to deliver various commercial cargo to the Moon, as well as conduct NASA-sponsored experiments and explore the Moon's surface.

The first launch within the framework of the Kosmotras's 20-million-dollar contract with the US-based TransOrbital was scheduled for December 20. The Dnepr rocket would carry five satellites, owned by Argentina, Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia, as well as a model of the Moon-exploring spacecraft.

The first such spacecraft would blast off in October 2003, TransOrbital officials said, adding that the spacecraft would carry two cameras that would simultaneously photograph and film the Moon's surface.

According to TransOrbital's president Dennis Laurie, the company hopes to "conclusively prove the often-contested fact that US astronauts landed on the Moon," as well as outline a comprehensive map of the Moon's surface.