Russian space agency Roscosmos launched the Luna-25 mission from the Vosthochny cosmodrome on the country’s far east at 4 AM (tentative) on Friday, April 11, atop a Soyuz rocket. Russia’s first lunar landing mission since 1976 might land on the lunar south pole before Chandrayaan-3 despite launching nearly a month after the latter.
The Russian mission will travel to the Moon in about five and a half days, where it will spend three to seven days in a 100 kilometres orbit before landing on the surface, reports AP. This could mean that Luna-25 will land on August 23, the same day that ISRO plans to land Chandrayaan-3.
Roscosmos said in a statement earlier that along with demonstrating soft-landing capabilities, Luna-25 will analyse soil samples and conduct long-term scientific research on the Moon’s surface. Meanwhile, the Chandrayaan-3 mission is carrying an orbiter, a lander and a rover. Also, while the Luna-25 mission is designed to work for about a year in space, Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander and Pragyan rover are designed to last 14 days on the lunar surface.
This is Russia’s first lunar mission in 47 years when the country was part of the Soviet Union. (USSR) Interestingly, the mission is being carried out without any equipment from the European Space Agency (ESA). This is because the space agency cut ties with Roscosmos after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as per a Euro News report.
This means that Luna 25 will be Russia’s first fully homegrown deep-space mission since November 2011, according to Space.com. That’s when its Fobos-Grunt spacecraft launched towards Mars. But the spacecraft never really made it all that far as it got stuck in Earth’s orbit before eventually burning up in its atmosphere. The Schiaparelli Mars lander, on which the Russian space agency partnered with ESA, also ended in failure when the spacecraft crashed into the planet.
But the country already achieved soft lunar landings multiple times decades back when it was still part of the USSR.
With the Luna 25 mission, Russia is hoping to reignite what was once one of the best space exploration programs in the world. The last “Russian” probe to land on the Moon was Luna 24, which took a robotic lander that collected soil samples in August 1976. This was more than three years after the last Apollo landing with astronauts. No other mission accomplished a similar task for decades till China’s Chang’e 5 sample return in 2020.
At the time of Luna-24, the United States and USSR were still locked in the throes of a space race. The space race of today has two additional members—India and China.