According to officials, the Russian unmanned Luna-25 spacecraft has experienced a crash landing on the Moon due to a loss of control during its mission. This event marked Russia’s return to lunar exploration after a hiatus of nearly five decades.
The intended objective of the spacecraft was to achieve the historic feat of landing on the Moon’s southern pole. However, the mission encountered complications as it transitioned into its final pre-landing orbit.
The primary goal of this mission was to investigate a region on the Moon that researchers believe might contain frozen water and valuable minerals.
Russian Luna-25 spacecraft crash lands on the Moon
Roscosmos, Russia’s state space corporation, announced on Sunday morning that communication with the Luna-25 had been lost shortly after 14:57pm (11:57 GMT) on Saturday.
Initial assessments revealed that the 800kg lander had “ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the surface of the Moon,” the statement read.
The agency also conveyed that a dedicated commission would be formed to investigate the causes behind the mission’s failure.
This setback deals a significant blow to Roscosmos. The regression of Russia’s civil space program has been ongoing for multiple years, attributed in part to the redirection of state funding toward military endeavors.
Roscosmos had openly acknowledged the inherent risks associated with the Luna-25 mission and the possibility of its failure. The spacecraft was launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far eastern Amur region on August 11, subsequently achieving a successful lunar orbit entry earlier this week.
Anticipation had grown for the craft to achieve a historic feat with a gentle lunar touchdown scheduled for Monday or Tuesday. No nation had previously accomplished a landing on the Moon’s southern pole, although both the United States and China had executed successful soft landings on its surface.
Luna-25 marked Russia’s return to lunar exploration since 1976, during the period of the Soviet Union, when the Luna-24 mission achieved a triumphant landing.
Russia’s space race with India
Russia was in a competitive race with India to reach the Moon’s southern pole. India’s Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft has plans to touch down in that region in the upcoming days, aiming to deploy a rover for the purpose of investigating rocks and craters. The mission aims to collect valuable data and images, which would be transmitted back to Earth.
Notably, certain sections of the Moon’s southern pole are constantly cast in shadow, presenting a potential opportunity for the discovery of water.
The Indian spacecraft is scheduled to touch down on the Moon on August 23. It remains to be seen whether the Indian mission will fare better than the Russian one.