Russia is once again foraying into lunar exploration with the much-anticipated launch of the Luna-25 which took off on August 11.
If successful, this will be the first lunar mission by Russia to touch down on the moon’s surface in 47 years.
The launch comes nearly a month after the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) sent its own moon lander, Chandrayaan-3, which is supposed to land on August 23.
The landing date for Luna 25 has not been announced yet but scientists expect it to take five to seven days.
What is the Luna-25 mission?
The Luna 25 mission’s main objective is to execute a pinpoint landing near the moon’s south pole, a region that has garnered scientific interest due to its potential for revealing critical insights into the moon’s geological composition. The mission is primed to collect geological samples which will give scientists the opportunity to study this unexplored region of the moon. Furthermore, scientists also hope that the mission is successful in finding water or at least its building blocks which could aid in establishing human colonies in the near future.
The landing craft was launched in a Souyz-2 Fregat rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome and is expected to stay on the moon for a year. In the meantime, it will collect samples using its robotic arm, collect data from its spectrometers, use the imaging systems to take pictures and beam all the information back to Earth.
Why is this mission important for Russia?
Also called the Luna-Glob-Lander, Russia’s Luna-25 mission is a bid to reclaim some of its prestige back as one of the leaders in space exploration. The last successful lunar mission was the Luna-24 probe launched by the Soviet space programme in 1976. This mission returned with geographical samples which showed the presence of water on the moon.
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Russia has tried to launch two landing missions to Mars–Mars-96 in 1996 and the Phobos Grunt in 2011. Both missions ended with the spacecrafts crash-landing into the Pacific Ocean.
Russia’s space programme has been hampered due to the multiple sanctions imposed on the country since 2014 and the latest sanctions imposed in 2022 due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. The restriction of access to equipment and expertise from western countries have impeded on the success of the Russian space programme.
Will the Luna-25 mission impact the functioning of Chandrayaan-3?
According to Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, the landing of Luna-25 will not have any impact on Chandrayaan-3 as the landing region of the spacecrafts is different and “there is enough space on the moon for everyone.” Moreover, the Luna-25 landing craft is stationary while Chandrayaan-3 comes with a landing craft and a rover. Also, the Chandrayaan-3 mission is supposed to last for two weeks though both missions have similar objectives–find traces of water on Earth’s only natural satellite while collecting scientific data.
The US, China and the erstwhile USSR are the only three countries that have managed to successfully execute a soft-landing on the moon.