Russia launches a lunar lander in a race to find water on the Moon

MOSCOW, August 11 (Reuters) – Russia on Friday launched its first spacecraft to land on the moon in 47 years, aiming to become the first country to make a soft landing on the moon’s south pole, an area believed to have pockets of coveted water ice. .

The first since 1976, the Russian lunar mission is competing against India, which launched the Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander last month, and more broadly, the US and China, both of which have advanced lunar exploration programs aimed at the moon’s south pole.

A Soyuz 2.1v rocket carrying the Luna-25 ship was detonated from the Vostochny cosmodrome 3,450 miles (5,550 km) east of Moscow at 02:11 Moscow time on Friday (1111 GMT on Thursday), and its upper stage was announced by Russia’s space agency Roscosmos. It confirmed that it had landed on the Moon about an hour after orbiting.

Russia’s space chief Yuri Borisov told Interfax on Friday that the lander is expected to land on the moon on August 21. The Russian space agency Roscosmos had previously set August 23 as the landing date.

According to Interfax, Borisov told staff at the Vostochny cosmodrome after launch, “Now we’ll wait for the 21st. I hope there will be an extremely sensitive soft landing on the moon.”

Roughly the size of a small car, Luna-25 will aim to operate for a year at the moon’s south pole, where in recent years scientists at NASA and other space agencies have detected traces of water ice in the region’s shadowy craters.

There’s a lot to do with the Luna-25 mission, as the Kremlin says most Western sanctions on the Ukraine war, targeting Moscow’s aviation industry, have not crippled the Russian economy.

The moon image, which Russia has planned for decades, will also test the country’s growing independence in space after Ukraine in February 2022 severed nearly all space ties with the West, as well as Moscow’s integral role on the International Space Station.

The European Space Agency planned to test the Pilot-D navigation camera by attaching it to the Luna-25, but cut ties with the project after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Russia’s aspirations for the moon are mixed with many different things. I think, first of all, it’s an expression of national power on the global stage,” Asif Siddiqi, a professor of history at Fordham University, told Reuters.

US astronaut Neil Armstrong rose to fame as the first person to walk on the moon in 1969, but the Soviet Union’s Luna-2 mission was the first spacecraft to reach the lunar surface in 1959, and the Luna-9 mission in 1966 was the first. to soft landing there.

Moscow then focused on exploring Mars, and since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has not sent scientific probes beyond earth orbit.


Major powers like the United States, China, India, Japan, and the European Union have all been exploring the moon in recent years. A Japanese moon landing failed last year, and an Israeli mission failed in 2019.

No country has made a soft landing at the south pole. An Indian mission, Chandrayaan-2, failed in 2019.

The rough terrain makes it difficult to land there, but the reward for discovering water ice may be historical: it can be used to extract massive amounts of fuel and oxygen, as well as for drinking water.

“The most important task from a science point of view is, simply put, landing where no one has landed,” said Maxim Litvak, head of the Luna-25 scientific equipment planning group.

“There are traces of ice on the soil at the landing site of Luna-25, which is evident from the data taken from the orbit,” said the Minister, adding that Luna-25 will work on the Moon for at least one earth year and take samples. .

Roscosmos said it would take five days to fly to the moon. The vehicle will spend 5-7 days in lunar orbit before landing at one of three possible landing sites near the mast;

Chandrayaan-3 will conduct experiments for two weeks.

With a mass of 1.8 tons and 31 kg (68 pounds) of scientific equipment, Luna-25 will use a scoop to take rock samples down to 15 cm (6 in) deep to test for the presence of frozen water.

reporting Guy Faulconbridge from Moscow and Joey Roulette from Washington; Fiction by Leslie Adler and Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

As the Moscow bureau chief, Guy runs the news for Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States. Before Moscow, Guy handled Brexit news as London bureau chief (2012-2022). On Brexit night, his team delivered one of Reuters’ historic wins, reporting Brexit news to the world and financial markets for the first time. Guy graduated from the London School of Economics and started his career as an intern at Bloomberg. He spent over 14 years covering the former Soviet Union. He speaks Russian fluently. Contact: +447825218698

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