Russia has failed to return to our natural satellite after an absence of 47 years.
Following in the footsteps of Luna 24
The last Soviet probe sent to the Moon and deposited in a controlled manner on its surface dates back to August 1976, with the Luna 24 mission.
It collected and brought back to Earth a few tens of grams of regolith, four years after the last American manned mission (Apollo 17).
On August 10, 2023, Russia finally returned to our natural satellite, successfully dispatching the Luna 25 probe from the Vostotchny cosmodrome, located in southeastern Siberia, using a Soyuz 2 launch vehicle.1b / Fregat.
Two major scientific objectives
Luna 25 is the first mission in Russia's new lunar exploration program, comprising four probes to be launched by 2030 : an orbiter and three landers, including one tasked with a sample return mission.
The scout probe was to land softly near the Boguslawsky crater, near the south pole of the Moon's visible face.
The two main scientific objectives were to study the composition of polar regolith, and to investigate the plasma and dust components of the lunar polar exosphere.
To this end, the probe carried eight scientific instruments, and was equipped with a robotic arm.
Fatal anomalous maneuver
On August 16 at 8:57 a.m., after just over five days of uneventful travel, Luna 25 had correctly placed itself in a circular polar orbit 100 km high, then transmitted its first views of the Selene surface.
On August 19, the probe had reignited its engine at 11:10 a.m., to reach a pre-landing orbit, with perigee lowered to 18 km.
But communications were lost 47 minutes later : the engine ran longer than necessary, causing the probe to crash fatally into the Moon's surface.
Russia even more isolated
Luna 25 was expected to be the renaissance mission, affirming Russia's technological might and the vigor of its space program.
The latter had been on the wane for several decades, but had seen a certain recovery in the last five years while it appears weakened and isolated once again since the start of the war in Ukraine, it is not moribund either, with Russia remaining the third world power in orbital achievements to date, behind the USA and China.
The failure of Luna 25 also comes at a time when Moscow is keen to strengthen its space cooperation with Beijing, notably around a project for a joint manned base on the Moon.
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