Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft crashes into the Moon

Russia’s lunar aspirations faced a setback as the Luna-25 spacecraft failed to touch down on the Moon, according to a statement from Roscosmos, the country’s state-run space agency. The spacecraft, which entered lunar orbit last week, encountered a collision with the Moon’s surface, leading to its demise. The intended landing, slated for August 21st, would have marked Russia’s first Moon landing since 1976.

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Roscosmos had encountered a “technical glitch” during preparations to shift the craft to a pre-landing orbit, prompting analysis over the weekend. However, the organization confirmed that Luna-25 had been lost.

Russia was vying to outpace India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission in achieving a Moon landing. While Chandrayaan-3 achieved lunar orbit this month, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) announced its plans for a Moon landing on August 23rd at the lunar south pole – the same region targeted by Luna-25. If successful, this feat would make it the first spacecraft to land on the Moon’s southern extremity.

Luna-25’s objective was to study the Moon’s southern polar ice, unveiling insights into the satellite’s formation. This analysis held the potential to theorize on the emergence of water on the Moon’s surface and its connection to water formation on Earth. Researchers intended to discern whether the Moon formed independently or resulted from an extraterrestrial impact, potentially propelled from Earth.

The groundwork for Luna-25’s mission commenced in 2015, aiming to pave the way for a crewed lunar mission in 2029. However, this setback compounds the challenges for Roscosmos, an agency grappling with limited funding as resources are directed towards military endeavours.

Moon landings are complex undertakings riddled with obstacles and disappointments. Earlier this year, Japanese startup ispace lost contact with its Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander after a three-month journey. In 2019, Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft’s engine malfunctioned during descent, leading to a failed Moon-landing mission. The Indian space agency (ISRO) also encountered a failure in 2019 as the Chandrayaan-2 Vikram lander lost contact and crashed during its descent.

Amidst these trials, the United States is eyeing a crewed Moon landing in 2025, emphasizing the enduring challenges and uncharted territories of lunar exploration.