Russian officials report that the Luna-25 unmanned spacecraft has collided with the Moon after losing control and spinning out of orbit.
Russia’s first lunar mission in nearly five decades encountered a setback as it aimed to become the inaugural spacecraft to touch down on the Moon’s southern pole. Unfortunately, the mission faced difficulties as it transitioned into its pre-landing orbit, ultimately leading to its failure.
The mission’s objective was to investigate a lunar region believed to contain frozen water and valuable elements. On Sunday morning, Roscosmos, Russia’s state space agency, announced the loss of communication with the Luna-25 at approximately 14:57 local time (11:57 GMT) on Saturday.
Preliminary findings indicate that the 800kg lunar lander ceased to exist after colliding with the Moon’s surface, as stated in an official announcement. A special commission will investigate the mission’s failure.
This setback is a significant blow to Roscosmos, Russia’s civilian space program, which has faced declining funding as resources are increasingly allocated to the military. Russia was in a race to the Moon’s south pole with India, as the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft from India is scheduled to land there soon for rover exploration, with the goal of collecting data and images, particularly in the permanently shadowed regions that hold the potential for water discovery.
The Indian space agency, ISRO, expressed their regret over the Luna-25 crash, emphasizing the inherent risks and technical challenges in every space mission.
Roscosmos had acknowledged the risks associated with the Luna-25 mission, which launched on August 11 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome and successfully entered lunar orbit earlier this week. The mission aimed to achieve a historic soft landing, marking Russia’s return to lunar exploration since 1976.
Notably, Luna-24, part of the Soviet Union’s lunar program, successfully landed on the Moon in 1976. This mission was a precursor to Luna-25’s attempt to make history with a south pole landing, a feat never before accomplished by any nation, though the US and China have executed soft landings elsewhere on the Moon’s surface.