Russia’s lunar hopes have been dashed as the Luna-25 probe, the country’s first Moon mission in nearly half a century, crashed on the lunar surface during pre-landing manoeuvres. The same was confirmed by the Russian space agency Roscosmos on Sunday.
As per Roscosmos, communication with Luna-25 was abruptly lost at 2:57 pm (11:57 GMT), leaving a trail of uncertainty. The space agency shared preliminary findings indicating that “the apparatus moved into an unpredictable orbit and ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the surface of the Moon.”
“Thrust was released to transfer the probe onto the pre-landing orbit,” Roscosmos said in a statement sharing details, adding: “During the operation, an emergency situation occurred on board the automatic station, which did not allow the carrying out of the manoeuvre within the specified conditions.”
Efforts made on August 19 and 20 to locate the craft and reestablish contact were unfortunately unsuccessful, the space agency was reported by AFP as saying.
Roscosmos also announced its intent to launch a ministerial investigation into the crash’s causes. It further refrained from disclosing any specific technical issues that may have led to the unfortunate outcome.
What Russia set out to achieve:
The Luna-25 probe, weighing in at 800 kilograms, was poised to make history with a soft landing on the lunar south pole, an achievement that had never been accomplished before. Russia’s last attempt to land on a celestial body dates back to 1989 — 47 years ago — when the Soviet Union’s Phobos 2 probe, intended to explore the moons of Mars, failed due to an onboard computer malfunction.
In June this year, Yuri Borisov, the head of Roscosmos, had acknowledged this mission’s risks, estimating a roughly 70 per cent chance of success.
And Luna-25 looked like it was on the right path, having achieved a significant milestone by successfully entering the Moon’s orbit just days before, following its launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
The original mission’s objectives included a year-long stay on the Moon, during which Luna-25 would collect soil samples and search for water. Cameras aboard the lander had already captured images of the lunar surface.
The Luna-25 mission held significant promise for Russia, aiming to build upon the legacy of its Soviet-era Luna program. Russia’s Space efforts come at a time when the country is battling internal and external geopolitical issues.
Russia’s failed lunar mission also coincides with India’s competing space probe, Chandrayaan-3 entering the Moon’s orbit earlier in August. Like Luna-25, Chandrayaan-3’s lander Vikram also aims to land on the south pole. If India achieves the landing as intended, it will join the coveted list of countries such as Russia, the United States and China to have previously achieved a controlled landing and will be the first to land on Moon’s south pole.