Russia's first lunar mission of the century crashes into the Moon
Image credit: Nasa
The Luna-25 spacecraft “ceased to exist” after colliding with the Moon while communications with the probe were interrupted.
Russia’s first lunar mission in 47 years has ended in failure, after an unmanned spacecraft crashed into the Moon’s surface.
The crash took place after Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, lost touch with Luna-25 on Saturday around 2.57pm Moscow time. The landing was scheduled to take place today, Monday August 21.
“Due to the deviation of the actual pulse parameters from the calculated ones, the automatic station switched to an off-design orbit and ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the lunar surface,” the agency said.
Roscosmos added it has formed a special interdepartmental commission to investigate the mission’s failure.
Luna-25 was designed to become the first spacecraft to land on the Moon’s south pole, an area believed to hold frozen water as well as valuable elements.
However, India’s Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft could now become the first to achieve this feat, as it is scheduled to land in the Moon’s south pole this week. From there, the mission will send a rover to explore the rocks and craters, gathering data and images to send back to Earth.
A spokesperson for the Indian space agency Isro told BBC the Luna-25 crash was “unfortunate”.
Luna-25 entered orbit around the Moon last week, and was intended to orbit for just five days before landing. However, the spacecraft suffered a catastrophic “technical glitch” as it was preparing to move to a pre-landing orbit.
The failure of the Russian mission is a significant blow to the country’s space ambitions. It could also potentially impact Russia’s lunar programme, which envisages several more missions over the coming years, including a possible joint effort with China.
“This was perhaps the last hope for me to see a revival of our lunar programme,” Mikhail Marov, a 90-year-old leading Soviet physicist and astronomer told Reuters.
Thomas Zurbuchen, Nasa’s former head of science, said in a social media post on X – the website formally known as Twitter – that no one in the industry “wishes bad onto other explorers”.
“We are reminded that landing on any celestial object is anything but easy and straightforward,” he said. “Just because others managed to do it decades ago, does not guarantee success today.”
Russia’s last lunar mission – Luna-24 – took place in 1976, while the country was still under communist rule.
Last summer, the country unveiled its intentions to withdraw from the International Space Station – one of the few areas of large-scale cooperation between the US and Russia – to focus on developing its own orbital outpost, similar to China’s Tiangong project, which is currently under construction.
Nasa successfully launched its Artemis spacecraft last year, as part of a mission to take humans back to the Moon. The agency has also revealed its hopes of landing humans on Mars sometime in the 2030s as part of its Moon to Mars programme.
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