The Luna-25 spacecraft spun out of control and crashed onto the moon following a glitch preparing for pre-landing orbit, ending Russia’s first lunar trip in 47 years and highlighting the post-Soviet downfall of a once-dominant space program.
A malfunction occurred when the ship was being shifted into pre-landing orbit on Saturday at 11:57 GMT, according to Roskosmos, the state-owned space enterprise of Russia. Monday’s landing was supposed to be gentle.
According to a statement from Roskosmos, the device “moved into an unpredictable orbit and ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the surface of the Moon.”
A special interdepartmental committee, whose task had given Moscow hope that Russia was rejoining the large power moon race, had been established, according to the report, to look into the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Luna-25 ship.
The disaster highlighted Russia’s declining space prowess since the height of the Cold War rivalry, when Moscow launched Sputnik 1, the first satellite to orbit the Earth, in 1957, and Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to enter space in 1961.
The $2 trillion economy of Russia is also currently dealing with its biggest external challenge in decades as a result of Western sanctions and the worst land conflict in Europe since World War Two.
Since Luna-24 in 1976, when Leonid Brezhnev was in charge of the Kremlin, Russia has not made an attempt at a lunar mission.
Russia has been competing with China and the United States, both of which have advanced lunar aspirations, as well as India, whose Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft is expected to touch down on the moon’s south pole this week.
Around the time that word of the Luna disaster spread, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced on X, previously Twitter, “India’s Chandrayaan-3 is set to land on the moon on August 23.”
The Luna-25 mission was intended to demonstrate to Russian leaders that their country can compete in space with superpowers despite its post-Soviet fall and the enormous costs of the Ukraine war.
“The flight control system was a vulnerable area, which had to go through many fixes,” said Anatoly Zak, the founder and editor of www.RussianSpaceWeb.com, which monitors Russian space programs.
As is customary for the Soviet Union, the United States, China, and India, Zak said that Russia had likewise chosen to launch a considerably more complex orbital mission before attempting the much more ambitious moon landing.
The 2011 Fobos-Grunt mission failure to one of Mars’ moons highlighted the difficulties Russia’s space program was experiencing more than ten years ago when it could not even leave the earth’s orbit and crashed back to earth, slamming into the Pacific Ocean in 2012.
Russia ultimately decided to pursue the Luna-25 mission to the south pole of the moon in the early 2010s. Luna-25 did succeed in leaving the orbit of the planet.
However, due to its failure, Russia may not be the first country to sample the frozen water that researchers believe the moon’s south pole contains.
The long-term effects of the failed mission on the nation’s lunar program, which calls for several additional trips over the next years, were not immediately obvious.