Russian lander Luna-25 has crashed on the Moon

Russian space agency Roscosmos has announced to the world that the Luna-25 lander has crashed on the surface of the Moon
Impact point of the Luna-25 lander on the surface of the Moon

First Russian lunar lander, launched after 47 years, Luna-25, crashed on the surface of the Moon. On Sunday, August 20, the Russian space agency announced the news to the world. The lander, which Russia hoped would land on the lunar south pole on Monday, August 21, crashed after an orbital maneuver went awry, Roscosmos officials reported.

Russian Failure

“Communication with the Luna-25 spacecraft was interrupted around 2:57 PM Moscow time on August 19” Russian officials wrote in an update on Telegram (ref.). “Measures taken on August 19 and 20 to locate and establish contact with the device yielded no results”. From preliminary analysis, it is presumed that the orbital maneuver sent Luna-25 on an unexpected trajectory. “The Luna-25 lunar lander ceased to exist after crashing onto the lunar surface” Roscosmos stated.

Luna-25 was hoped to be a significant milestone in space for Russia. The country’s last lunar probe was Luna-24 in 1976, during the time of the Soviet Union. That probe landed in the Sea of Crises and brought back a sample to Earth. Luna-25 was supposed to land near the lunar south pole, where it would spend a terrestrial year searching for water ice and conducting scientific investigations.

Launched on August 10, it sent its first photos from space to Earth on August 13, including selfies with the Moon and Earth in the background. The mission quickly reached lunar orbit, a major milestone announced with great fanfare by Roscosmos on August 16.

Missed Landing Zone

The primary landing area for the spacecraft was a region called Boguslawsky Crater. But two backup landing points were also available: southwest of Manzini Crater and south of Pentland A Crater. Aside from hunting for water ice, Luna 25’s main scientific objectives included examining lunar regolith and rocks. Equally important were observations of the thin lunar atmosphere and testing technology for future lunar landings.

The Russian aerospace company NPO Lavochkin designed and built the lander. Comprising two main parts, it had a landing platform with a propulsion system and a landing gear. The lander also carried a non-pressurized instrument container for items like solar panels, radiators, antennas, cameras, a power source, and scientific equipment.

The crashed Luna-25 lander on the Moon could be a setback for Russia’s plans. Roscosmos had planned subsequent lunar missions following this one, including a lunar orbiter called Luna-26 and then two landing missions. Luna-27, which would send a drilling rig to the lunar surface, and Luna-28, a sample return mission aiming to bring material back from the lunar polar regions.

Roscosmos’ Reactions

These subsequent lunar missions are likely to be delayed due to the failure of this mission. Roscosmos is investigating to find the causes of the failure. The mission had already faced delays due to technical issues and challenges related to Russia’s ongoing war with Ukraine, which resulted in the European Space Agency (ESA) withdrawing from the mission.

ESA was supposed to provide a precision camera to assist Luna-25’s landing. Roscosmos officials stated on Sunday that they had already formed a team to investigate the Luna-25 debacle. “A specially formed interdepartmental commission will be responsible for clarifying the reasons for the loss of the lander” Roscosmos wrote in the Telegram update.

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