A YouTube video has shown up that depicts a proposed Russian effort to land a probe on Ganymede, a moon of Jupiter and the largest moon in the solar system. The video was created by a number of engineers at Roscosmos, the Russian equivalent of NASA. The probe is called Laplace-P and could be launched sometime in the next decade.

The concept of a Ganymede lander has been kicked around in Russian aerospace circles for a number of years, likely as part of a European orbiter to be called Jupiter Icy Moon Explorer (JUICE) which is due to launch in 2022 and subsequently orbit Jupiter, studying Ganymede, Europa, and Callisto.

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The United States is planning an expedition to Europa that would include and orbiter and a lander. The Russian mission would sample Ganymede for indications of life.

A number of reasons exist for a Russian mission to Ganymede.

Besides the scientific value of such an enterprise, a landing on Ganymede would constitute quite a bit of prestige for Russia and her Space program. Only the United States, partnered with the European Space Agency, has ever sent probes beyond the orbit of Mars. The Russians have not had a successful interplanetary mission for over 30 years.

On the other hand, one has to take grandiose space plans from the Russians with a grain of salt. Russia has presented all sorts of plans for space missions, including a lunar base, which has never become reality. The reason that Russia’s space reach has exceeded its grasp has not so much to do with its technical know-how as it does with a lack of money. Dependent as Russia is on oil exports for income and as rock bottom as the price of petroleum is, the Moscow government lacks the money for too many space adventures.

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Russia’s primary space focus is upon its share of the International Space Station, from which it gets a steady income due to taking paying customers from the other partners on its Soyuz spacecraft. Even that money will go away once the American commercial spacecraft begin flying in two years.

Of course, Vladimir Putin has one option is he wants to recapture the glory days of Russian space exploration. Russia is currently embarked on imperialist adventures in the Ukraine and Syria in an attempt to restore the Soviet Empire, If Putin decided to abandon that venture and instead concentrate on peaceful, economic development, Russia would have the money to reach for the heavens once again.