Russia will also return to the moon.
For the first time since the moon race with the United States in the 1960s and 1970s, Russia is set to launch a moderate-size robotic lander, Luna-25, to the moon’s south polar region. The mission was in development for years before Russia invaded Ukraine, but also comes at a moment when President Vladimir V. Putin is eyeing space as a way to signal Russia’s return to great-power status. power.
When is the launch and how can I watch it?
The launch is scheduled for Thursday at 7:10 pm Eastern time from Vostochny, a spaceport in Russia’s far east. (It’s Friday morning in Russia, 9:10 am in Vostochny and 2:10 am in Moscow.) Earlier today, the TASS news service reported that approval has been given to begin fueling the rocket that will carry Luna-25 into orbit.
Why is Russia going to the moon?
After the success of NASA’s Apollo moon landings from 1969 to 1972, the world’s space agencies lost interest in the moon. Russia completed several robotic landings after the end of the Apollo program, culminating in the Luna-24 mission in 1976.
In the following decades, attention shifted to more distant destinations in the solar system. But the discovery of water ice in crater shadows in the moon’s polar regions has revived interest.
Russia has been trying to revive its lunar program for the last quarter-century, and Russian officials have discussed sending Russian astronauts there as well.
“The architecture of the lander is very similar to what the Soviet Union used for landing on the moon in the 70s,” said Anatoly Zak, who publishes. RussianSpaceWeb.com, which closely monitors Russia’s space activities.
“However, this is a scaled-down version” that takes advantage of some modern technological advances, Mr. Zak said. “When they decided to call it Luna-25, it was quite fair, because, in fact, it was a continuation of the Soviet legacy.”
However, Russia’s space program has been hampered by limited financing, economic sanctions imposed after the invasion of Ukraine and technological limitations, especially for electronics. Some Russians have even expressed doubts about the prospects of the Russian moon exploration program.
“The Russian government is looking for any ‘successes’ to show how unconcerned they are with sanctions,” said Denis Shiryaev, a Russian blogger who writes about technology. He added, “The news was probably released for that, not for the actual launch.”
What happens on the flight?
Luna-25 will be launched atop a Soyuz rocket that will put it into orbit around Earth. The rocket’s upper stage will fire, propelling the lander on a journey of about five days toward the moon.
Once on the moon, the Luna-25 lander will enter a circular orbit 60 miles above the surface. The lander will spend about seven days propelling itself into an elliptical orbit that dips to within a dozen miles of the surface. Roscosmos has not announced a planned landing date.
If Luna-25 lands successfully, it will operate for at least a year. Its main landing target was north of the Boguslawsky crater, located at a latitude of about 70 degrees south. Planned experiments include soil scooping and testing where it was made. It can dig up some water ice below the surface.
Who else has been to the moon?
Landers from several countries have sent robotic spacecraft to the moon in recent years. Only China succeeded, making it three out of three.
Other landing attempts have failed, including an attempt by the Japanese company Ispace in April.
Last month, India launched its latest moon mission, Chandrayaan 3. Through a winding, energy-efficient route, Chandrayaan 3 entered orbit around the moon on August 5, and its landing attempt , at a location in the south polar region, is scheduled for August 23 — just about the same as Luna-25.
What else is going on with the Russian space program?
Luna-25 is planned to be the first in a series of increasingly ambitious robotic missions to the moon. Luna-26 will be an orbiter, while Luna-27 will be a larger, more capable lander.
Russia continues to cooperate with NASA on the International Space Station, but Russia has refused to join NASA’s Artemis program to send astronauts back to the moon. Instead, it announced that it is working with China to build a lunar base in the 2030s.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led the European Space Agency to end its cooperation with Roscosmos on planetary missions. A European-built experimental navigation camera was lifted from Luna-25. ESA also ended collaboration on the ExoMars mission; its Rosalind Franklin rover will be launched on a Russian rocket and then brought to the surface of Mars by a Russian landing system.
Anton Troyanovski, Alina Lobzina and Milana Mazaeva contributed reporting.