Russia’s Luna-25 spacecraft crashes into moon in failed mission

Russia’s first lunar mission in decades has failed after its spacecraft crashed into the moon.

The Luna-25 was due to land on the south pole of the moon on Monday, in a space race between Russia and India.

But the country’s state space corporation, Roskosmos, said an “abnormal situation” occurred as mission control tried to move the craft into a pre-landing orbit at 11.10am on Saturday.

“The apparatus moved into an unpredictable orbit and ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the surface of the Moon,” Roskosmos said in a statement.

The moon mission was Russia’s first in 47 years.

Roskosmos said that specialists were analysing the situation but it has given no further updates. Roskosmos did not answer repeated phone calls seeking comment on Sunday morning.

Unverified Russian-language Telegram channels reported that communication with the craft had been lost and Russia‘s Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper cited an unidentified specialist as saying that the craft may have been lost.

“The flight control system was a vulnerable area, which had to go through many fixes,” said Anatoly Zak, the creator and publisher of http://www.RussianSpaceWeb.com which tracks Russian space programmes.

Mr Zak said Russia had also gone for the much more ambitious moon landing before undertaking a simpler orbital mission – the usual practice for the Soviet Union, the United States, China and India.

Failure to complete the mission will underscore the decline of Russia‘s space power since the glory days of Cold War competition when Moscow was the first to launch a satellite to orbit the Earth – Sputnik 1, in 1957 – and Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first man to travel into space in 1961.

Russia has not attempted a moon mission since Luna-24 in 1976, when Leonid Brezhnev ruled the Kremlin. Luna-25 was supposed to execute a soft landing on the south pole of the moon on August 21, according to Russian space officials.

Russia has been racing against India, whose Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft is also scheduled to land on the moon’s south pole this week, and more broadly against China and the United States which both have advanced lunar ambitions.

It was not immediately clear from official sources how serious the “abnormal situation” was and whether or not Moscow could save the situation.

Under the headline “Space industry source: Luna-25 is lost”, the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper said that Alexander Ivanov, Roskosmos first deputy director, who directs orbital group projects, held an emergency meeting on the situation on Saturday evening.

More than a decade ago, the failure of the 2011 Fobos-Grunt mission to one of the moons of Mars underscored the challenges facing Russia‘s space programme: it could not even exit the earth’s orbit and fell back to earth, smashing into the Pacific Ocean in 2012.

A picture taken from the camera of the lunar landing spacecraft Luna-25 shows the Zeeman crater located on the far side of the moon

Eventually, in the early 2010s, Russia settled upon the idea of the Luna-25 mission to the south pole of the moon. Luna-25 did manage to exit the earth’s orbit. But its failure means that Russia may not be the first to sample the frozen water which scientists believe the south pole of the moon holds.

A mission failure would pile pressure on Russia‘s $2 trillion economy, and particularly its high-technology sectors, as it grapples with Western sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for the war in Ukraine.

A picture taken from the camera of the lunar landing spacecraft Luna-25 during its flight to the moon shows the mission emblem and the bucket of the lunar manipulator complex


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