Russia’s long-awaited lunar mission has suffered a major setback, as the Luna 25 spacecraft has tragically crashed into the moon’s surface, dealing a blow to Russia’s space aspirations.
The failure occurred due to a disruption in communication with the robotic spacecraft.
Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, reported that contact with Luna 25 was lost on Saturday around 2:57 p.m. Moscow time. Despite efforts on August 19 and 20 to locate and reconnect with the craft, no progress was made.
An initial analysis by Roscosmos revealed that Luna 25 had deviated from its intended orbit before the collision, but the exact cause of the crash remains unclear. A dedicated commission will be formed to investigate the incident further.
The incident comes just after the spacecraft encountered an “emergency situation” during an attempt to enter a pre-landing orbit, as stated by Roscosmos in a Telegram post on Saturday.
Luna 25 was designed to accomplish Russia’s first lunar landing mission in nearly five decades, following Luna 24’s landing on the moon’s surface in 1976. The probe took off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Amur Oblast on August 10, with a mission to explore the moon’s soil composition and its thin exosphere for a year.
Luna 25’s trajectory allowed it to surpass India’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander, launched in mid-July, on its journey to the moon’s south pole. This region holds immense interest due to its status as one of the least explored areas on the moon, where scientists suspect water might be present in the form of ice within shadowy craters.
Although there was a perception of a race between India and Russia to reach the lunar south pole, astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell clarified that both projects were long-term endeavors, with plans dating back over a decade.
Initially, Roscosmos and the European Space Agency had intended to collaborate on Luna 25 and subsequent missions, but the partnership dissolved in 2022 due to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
Luna 25 carried eight scientific instruments, including spectrometers for studying lunar soil and detecting surface water. In contrast, India’s Chandrayaan-3 included a lander, propulsion module, and rover, granting it greater exploration capabilities. Chandrayaan-3’s upcoming landing attempt holds significance for India’s space program, following the unsuccessful Chandrayaan-2 mission in 2019.
The failure of Luna 25 presents a setback for Russia’s civil space program, which had aimed to prove its capabilities for future lunar missions. The craft’s success would have demonstrated Russia’s competency in high-profile and high-stakes space endeavors. The space community expressed sympathy for the challenges faced by Russian space explorers, emphasizing the difficulty of landing on celestial bodies and the uncertainties involved in space exploration.