Back to the Moon! Russia's Luna-25 Lander Mission in Facts and Details
17:54 GMT 09.08.2023 (Updated: 18:37 GMT 09.08.2023)
On August 11, a Soyuz rocket will blast off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Russian Far East carrying a very important cargo: the first Russian lunar module to be sent to the Moon in nearly 50 years! How will the module get to there? What will its mission be? Check out Sputnik's infographic for details.
The assembly of the Soyuz-2.1b rocket with a Fregat upper stage and Luna-25 lunar module on board has been completed in preparation for Friday's mission.
This will be the first time that Moscow has sent an automated scientific module to planet Earth's lunar satellite since 1976. The previous mission, Luna-24, was the third Soviet mission to return a sample of lunar soil from the Moon, and involved drilling two meters into the surface, stowing the sample in a special return capsule, and rocketing it back to Earth for analysis. The mission was a major success, and in 1978, Soviet scientists studying the returned samples were able to definitively confirm the presence of water on the Moon, a hypothesis long held by astronomers and astrophysicists, but never conclusively proven before this discovery. Luna-24 became the last human spacecraft to reach the Moon until 2013, when China's Chang'e 3 robotic explorer touched down on the lunar surface - an event that signaled a major breakthrough for the People's Republic's space program.
This time around, Russia's Luna-25 will be traveling to the Moon's South Pole, once again in search of water, but also volatile cosmic compounds. As an added bonus, Roscosmos expects the mission to help fine-tune Russian soft-landing technology for future missions, take measurements to help scientists studying the lunar exosphere, and hopefully, determine the interaction of solar winds with the upper regolith layer of the lunar surface. Russian scientists believe the Moon's polar regions are some of the most promising areas for exploration and discovery of new important information not only about Earth's satellite, but the solar system and even the galaxy in general, given previously obtained evidence of many volatile compounds of cosmic origin, including complex extraterrestrial molecules which have slammed into the Moon, carried aboard comets, over millions of years.
Thanks to advances in communications technology, the new Russian Moon mission will enable the transfer of scientific information back to Earth at speeds of up to 4 Mbps, with Luna-25 expected to operate over a one year period before its mission is complete.
The Luna-25 mission has been a long-time coming, with initial plans for its launched hatched back in the late 1990s, but delayed, first due to financial constraints, and then as Roscosmos focused on other priorities. Work on the lander, formerly known as Luna Globe, proceeded in 2005, with the failure of the Fobos-Grunt mission in 2011 further setting back launch preparations. A series of modifications and improvements to the original module and mission accumulated, and on July 11, 2023, the Luna-25 was finally delivered to the Vostochny Cosmodrome.
Luna-25 will launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome at 2:10 am Moscow time (August 10, 11:10 pm local time) with a backup launch set for August 12. If everything goes to plan, the module will make a soft landing on the Moon on August 21-22.