Home Science Russia Launches First Moon Mission after Half-Century Hiatus

Russia Launches First Moon Mission after Half-Century Hiatus

Russia Launches First Moon Mission after Half-Century Hiatus


Russia has launched uncrewed spacecraft to the Moon’s south pole — its first lunar mission in 47 years. If profitable, the mission could be the primary to land within the area, and will mark the beginning of appreciable exercise there from a number of international locations and personal firms.

“It’s an space the place we’d count on to see elevated concentrations of water ice,” says Simeon Barber, a planetary scientist on the Open College in Milton Keynes, UK. “As you go additional in direction of the pole, it will get colder and the potential for water ice will increase.”

Luna 25 launched at 11.11 p.m. UTC on a Soyuz rocket on 10 August from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in japanese Russia — marking a transfer away from Russia’s dependence on Kazakhstan, which hosts its major launch website, the Baikonur Cosmodrome. It can take round 5 days for the spacecraft to succeed in a 100-kilometre orbit across the Moon. The touchdown try is scheduled for 21 August on the 100-kilometre-wide Boguslawsky crater, about 500 kilometres from the Moon’s south pole.

That is the primary of many missions deliberate for the south pole. India’s Chandrayaan-3 will try and land within the area on 23 August. China plans to ship a rover there in 2026, and NASA’s Artemis programme, which is able to try and return people to the Moon for the primary time since Apollo 17 in 1972, can be specializing in the south pole. As a part of Artemis, a number of US firms are set to try landings there within the coming years.

Luna 25 is “a chance to steal the march on different individuals get some optimistic publicity,” says Roger Launius, NASA’s former chief historian.

Seek for ice

Orbital information for the reason that Nineteen Nineties suggests the Moon’s poles comprise sizeable portions of water ice, which, if accessible, could possibly be a precious useful resource for future human missions. “You may generate hydrogen and oxygen from it which could possibly be used to supply both ingesting water, breathable air, and even to supply rocket gasoline,” says Nico Dettman, Lunar Exploration Group Chief on the European House Company. That might make the Moon “a stepping stone for additional locations” within the Photo voltaic System.

In June, Yuri Borisov, head of Russia’s house company Roscosmos, described the Luna 25 mission as “excessive threat” with a 70% likelihood of success. NASA chief Senator Invoice Nelson mentioned on 8 August that the company “wished them effectively”, noting that NASA noticed any house race to return people to the Moon as being between the USA and China.

20 years within the making, Luna 25 is a stationary lander that weighs about 1,750 kilograms and is Russia’s first try and land on the Moon for the reason that Luna 24 mission in 1976, which returned lunar rocks to Earth. Luna 25 by comparability is “pretty modest”, says Scott Tempo, former government secretary of the US Nationwide House Council, carrying simply 30 kilograms of scientific devices.

The mission’s function is likely to be grander than its scientific return, says Tempo. “Politically they most likely really feel they must [go back],” he says, given exercise from different nations. “I believe it’s extra of a press release that they’re nonetheless right here and so they nonetheless have ambitions.” The nation is already working with China to construct a lunar analysis station, with China additionally hoping to ship astronauts to the Moon by 2030.

Digging down

Luna 25’s major instrument is a robotic arm that may try and dig as much as 50 centimetres into the ground of the Boguslawsky crater to search for indicators of water ice. Barber had been a part of a European workforce that will have collaborated with Russia on these actions and a deliberate follow-up mission, Luna 27, however the collaboration ended final 12 months following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Water ice, if found, could be helpful scientifically. “By understanding how the Moon has collected water over time, we may begin to piece collectively the historical past of water within the Photo voltaic System,” says Barber. “We will begin asking questions in regards to the native circumstances close to Earth because it was evolving.”

However the Russian mission hanging ice at Boguslawsky is “fairly unlikely”, as a result of temperatures within the crater are too excessive, says Margaret Landis, a planetary scientist on the College of Colorado, Boulder. Extra promising is likely to be a smaller and extra deeply shadowed crater inside Boguslawsky, however it’s unclear if Russia may try a touchdown right here. (Roscosmos declined Nature’s request for interview.)

“A null result’s probably simply as attention-grabbing as a optimistic detection,” says Landis. Subsequent 12 months, a NASA rover referred to as VIPER and a separate hopping spacecraft referred to as Micro-Nova from the US agency Intuitive Machines may even search for ice inside lunar craters on the south pole. Outcomes from this number of floor missions may “assist us slim down the place the water could possibly be”, says Landis.

Luna 25 may even picture the floor, research the interplay between the photo voltaic wind and the Moon, and deploy a laser reflector to exactly measure the Earth–Moon distance. Offering the touchdown goes easily, the craft is anticipated to function for one 12 months.

If Luna 25 lands, Russia will succeed the place many others have failed not too long ago. Since 1976, solely China has efficiently landed on the Moon, with a lander and rover in 2013 and 2018, and a sample-return mission in 2020. In 2019, India’s Chandrayaan-2 mission and Israel’s Beresheet lander crashed on the floor, and Japan’s Hakuto lander suffered the identical destiny in April.

“It’d be good to see any individual stick the touchdown,” says Landis.

This text is reproduced with permission and was first revealed on August 11, 2023.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here