Russia’s Luna-25 Lunar Mission Ends in Crash on Moon’s Surface
In a setback to Russia’s lunar exploration efforts, the Luna-25 spacecraft has experienced a crash landing on the moon due to an uncontrolled orbit, as confirmed by Russia’s space agency, Roskosmos, on Sunday. This mission marked Russia’s return to lunar exploration after 47 years.
The incident follows a reported issue in repositioning Luna-25 into a pre-landing orbit. Despite extensive efforts made on August 19 and 20 to reestablish contact with the craft, they proved unsuccessful. As a result, Luna-25 entered an unpredictable orbit and ultimately collided with the moon’s surface, leading to its cessation, according to a statement from Roskosmos.
The trouble began during an attempt to maneuver the automatic station into a pre-landing orbit at 11:10 GMT on Saturday, just ahead of a planned touchdown set for August 21. Communication with Luna-25 was lost at 11:57 GMT on that fateful Saturday.
Luna-25 was designed for a year-long mission on the moon, tasked with collecting soil samples and searching for water, which holds promise as a potential resource for rocket fuel in future space endeavors and potential lunar colonies. Cameras on the lander had captured images of the lunar surface before the crash.
Roskosmos has announced that a comprehensive investigation will be launched to determine the root causes of this mission failure, although no specific technical issues have been disclosed thus far.
This unfortunate incident represents a significant blow to Russia’s space prestige and highlights its diminishing influence as a space power compared to the historic achievements of the Cold War era, such as the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957 and Yuri Gagarin’s historic spaceflight in 1961. Since Luna-24 in 1976, Russia had not undertaken a moon mission until Luna-25.
The failed Luna-25 mission also puts Russia in competition with India, whose Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft is scheduled to attempt a soft landing on the moon’s south pole later this week. Furthermore, Russia faces broader competition from China and the United States, both of which have ambitious lunar exploration goals. The Indian Space Research Organisation has announced its plan to execute a soft landing on August 23 at 6:04 pm with Chandrayaan-3.