Russia launched the lunar probe Luna-25 into space on 11 August, resuming the lunar exploration program after nearly 50 years. According to RT, the target of this spacecraft is to land on the south pole of the Moon on 21 August. If successful on this date, Luna-25 is expected to arrive two days before India’s Chandrayaan-3 probe. In a race to see who lands first on the Moon’s south pole, the Russian space agency (Roscosmos) has assured that the two missions will not cause each other trouble due to different landing zones, according to Reuters. Prior to this, all probes had landed in the equatorial region of the Moon.
The Luna-25 spacecraft was launched into space on August 11 from the Vostochny Space Center in Russia’s Amur region. Photo: Reuters
According to RT, Luna-25 is the first lunar probe built in modern Russia. Prior to this, the Soviet Union had conducted 24 official Luna missions from September 1958 to August 1976. The mission of the Luna-25 spacecraft is to conduct scientific research in the South Pole of the Moon. The spacecraft is equipped with instruments that analyze the composition of the Moon’s soil, plasma and dust for rare minerals. The chosen landing site is near the Boguslavsky Crater.
According to Reuters, Luna-25 is the size of a small car and is expected to work on the Moon’s south pole for about a year. This is where scientists from several space agencies, including the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), have recently discovered traces of water ice. Roscosmos director Yuri Borisov said that they plan to conduct at least 3 more missions to the Moon in the next 7 years. After that, Russia and China can cooperate on a collaborative lunar mission.
The US and China also have programs to probe the Moon’s south pole, where rugged terrain makes landing difficult. The discovery of water ice, in turn, could be a landmark achievement. Water ice large enough can be used to extract fuel and oxygen, as well as drinking water. Finding a reliable source of water, if any, will play an important role in efforts to establish a permanent human presence on the Moon.
According to the South China Morning Post, China has researched and developed spacecraft and other equipment to meet the goal of sending astronauts to the Moon by 2030. Furthermore, China and the United States currently have programs to establish a permanent base on space. Moon in whose south polar region man is present. NASA recently said that the Artemis II mission to send four astronauts into lunar orbit is still scheduled for November 2024.
However, there are concerns that NASA’s plan to return astronauts to the Moon in 2025 could be delayed because SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft is not ready.
Earlier, according to RT, the Soviet space program had also recorded some first achievements with the Luna probe. In January 1959, Luna-1 became the first spacecraft to leave the Earth–Moon system. In September 1959, Luna-2 became the first man-made object to reach the Moon. In March 1966, Luna-10 became the first artificial satellite of the Moon. The last Soviet lunar mission, Luna-24, returned soil samples from the Moon to Earth for study in August 1976.
India has the ambition of becoming the first country to land on the Moon’s South Pole during the Chandrayaan-2 mission in September 2019. However, the lander was destroyed during this mission. Meanwhile, Japan’s and Israel’s moon landing missions failed in 2022 and 2019, respectively.
By July 2023, India will conduct the Chandrayaan-3 mission with the target of landing on the South Pole of the Moon on 23 August, completing a 40-day journey. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) on August 6 released the first images sent by the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft after reaching the lunar orbit a day earlier. After Chandrayaan-3 is established in an orbit 100 km above the lunar surface, the Vikram lander (carrying the Pragyan rover) will separate and land on the lunar surface. Both will operate and experiment on it for several weeks. India has spent 6 billion rupees (about 1,722 billion dong) on this mission. If successful, India will join the list of few countries that have sent a lander to the Moon.
The Chandrayaan-3 launch is India’s first major mission after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced policies to boost investment in the space race. Since 2020, the number of space startups has doubled as India’s private sector opens up. ISRO also agreed with NASA on a joint mission by 2024 that would send an Indian astronaut to the International Space Station (ISS).