Russia’s Luna-25 mission launched to the moon

For the first time in nearly half a century, Russia has launched a spacecraft to the moon.

A rocket lifted Luna-25, a medium-sized robotic lander, into Earth orbit at a space station in eastern Russia on Friday morning. It will attempt to land on the moon’s south pole, where the presence of water ice has attracted the attention of numerous space programs, and will carry out a year’s worth of scientific research.

The mission has been in development for years before Russia invaded Ukraine, but President Vladimir V. It also comes at a time when Putin is eyeing space as a way to return to Russia’s great power status.

The Soyuz rocket began its flight under cloudy skies at the Vostochny launch pad. About 10 minutes later, the spacecraft and a space traction propulsion unit separated from the rocket’s third stage. In about an hour, the space shuttle will push Luna-25 on a trajectory to the Moon.

Mr. In recent years under Putin’s rule, the Soviet era has been hailed as the height of Russian power, while the crimes and injustices of the Communist regime have been documented. Soviet achievements in space are major parts of the narrative taught in schools and on state television

Invasion of Ukraine, Mr. to Remake Russia With Western sanctions and the country starved of foreign capital and technology, the moon launch is emerging as a key test of the country’s ability to chart a new path. For future missions, Russia wants to develop electronic components bought from foreign companies.

It is a test that will be closely watched around the world as Europe and the United States work to isolate Russia amid the war in Ukraine, and Russia seeks to strengthen its political and economic ties with non-Western countries in response. Mr. Putin sees Russia’s space program as a prong of that effort. When he hosted African leaders for a summit meeting in St. Petersburg last month, he pledged to expand Russia’s cooperation with African countries “in the field of space technologies and their applications.”

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But space is also a domestic priority. In May, Mr. Putin instituted a new government award for achievements in space. In June, he presented it to Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space in 1963, who is now a member of the Russian parliament and Mr. He is also very loyal to Putin.

Sending his keen attention to the launch of Luna-25, Mr. Putin met with Yuri Borisov, head of Russia’s space program, on June 30. Mr. Borisov warned Mr Putin. Percentage, step Kremlin Transcript of their meeting.

“Such missions are always dangerous,” said Mr. Borisov told the president. “Of course, we want it to be successful.”

Whatever Luna-25’s prospects are, it’s a sign of how far the Russian space program has fallen since its glory days in the 1950s and ’60s when it launched the first satellite, Sputnik, and the first astronauts, Yuri Gagarin. It later competed with NASA to send astronauts to the moon.

Even the name of the study evokes the height of the Soviet Union’s space age. Moscow’s previous lunar probe, launched in 1976, was called Luna-24.

“The lander’s architecture is similar to what the Soviet Union developed in the 70s to land on the moon,” said publisher Anatoly Zak., A close watcher of Russia’s space activities.

“However, this is a scaled-down version” that takes advantage of modern technological advances, Mr. Sake said. “When they decided to call it Luna-25, it was justified, because, in fact, it is a continuation of the Soviet tradition.”

With the Moon race out of the way, the Soviet space program continued to make breakthroughs in planetary exploration. In the mid-1980s, its Vega 1 and Vega 2 missions landed on Venus and flew past Halley’s Comet to make observations.

The chaos of the collapse of the Soviet Union ushered in a protracted period for Russian planetary science. In 2011, an ambitious mission to collect dirt and rocks from the Martian moon fell back into Earth’s atmosphere and burned up. The Russian space agency’s post-mortem report blamed cost-cutting shortcuts and inadequate testing.

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Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft is still reliably sending astronauts to the International Space Station. But the country’s space program has lost the once-lucrative business of launching commercial satellites.

During a news conference on Tuesday, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson congratulated Russia in advance on the successful launch of Luna-25. “We wish them well,” he said.

He also largely dismissed what Russia might achieve in the coming years. “I don’t think a lot of people would say at this point that Russia is actually ready to land astronauts on the moon in the time frame we’re talking about,” Mr. Nelson said. “I think the space race is really between us and China.”

As the 1960s race to the moon captured the imagination of people around the world, Luna-25 is in a much more muted race — it could beat the Indian spacecraft that took the most energy-efficient route to the moon after its launch last month.

Luna-25, which lifted off just after 2 a.m. local time in Moscow, has so far not attracted much attention in Russia.

“The Russian government is looking for any ‘wins’ to show they don’t care about sanctions,” said Denis Shiryav, a Russian blogger who writes about technology. He added, “The news is often published for the sake of it, not for the actual publication.”

Once on the Moon, the Luna-25 lander will enter a circular orbit about 60 miles above the surface. The lander will spend about seven days in an elliptical orbit that will dip within a dozen miles of the surface.

Roscosmos has not yet announced a planned landing date. In an interview, Scientist Natan Esmont, head of the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that the landing could happen on August 20, but it could be later.

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The main objective of Luna-25 is to test technologies and lay the groundwork for future lunar missions. “This is a test bed that will help us move forward in the lunar exploration program,” said Dr. Easmond said.

Luna-25, if successfully landed, should remain operational for at least a year. Its primary landing target is north of the Bogoslavsky Crater, located at about 70 degrees south latitude. Planned tests include digging up the soil and analyzing what it’s made of. The lander can dig up some water ice below the surface.

“For the first time this will be lunar soil from near the pole, the south pole,” Dr Easmond said.

“Samples have been taken from equatorial regions,” he said, including rock and soil samples brought back by Apollo astronauts, previous Soviet robotic missions and, most recently, by China’s Chang’e-5 spacecraft. “They have been studied and some conclusions have been drawn. However, this does not mean that the polar models are the same.

Landers from several countries have sent robotic spacecraft to the Moon in recent years. Only China has won three out of three. All other landing attempts, including an attempt by Japanese company IceSpace in April, have failed. The Japanese government’s mission is the next robot launch, and two American companies may follow later this year.

Luna-25 is planned to be the first in a series of increasingly ambitious robotic missions to the Moon. Luna-26 is expected to be an orbiter, while Luna-27 will be a larger, more capable lander. After a low point following the failure of Russia’s Mars mission, planetary science research in Russia is now on the upswing, Dr. Eismond said.

“We have young people, and with them came new ideas,” he said.

Alina Lobzina And Milana Mazeva Contributed report.

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