Russia Elbows Into the New Moon Race With Upcoming Luna-25 Launch

Russia Elbows Into the New Moon Race With Upcoming Luna-25 Launch

Russia is getting ready to launch its first mission to the Moon in nearly fifty years in an attempt to stay relevant amidst a renewed space race.

The Luna-25 lander has been loaded on board a Soyuz-2.1b carrier rocket, awaiting its launch on Friday at 7:00 p.m. ET from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Moscow, according to Russian state news outlet TASS. The lunar lander is targeting the Moon’s south polar region, where it will study the composition of the polar regolith, and the plasma and dust components of the lunar polar exosphere.

Russia hasn’t launched a mission to the Moon since Luna-24 returned to Earth carrying samples of lunar regolith in August 1976. Luna-25 marks the first sign of Russia’s renewed interest in the Moon, with the country hoping to join forces with China in the new space race to the lunar surface.

The first mission of Russia’s new lunar program has been delayed for nearly two years. Luna-25 was originally planned in cooperation with the European Space Agency (ESA) but Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine led to severed ties between Europe and the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. ESA pulled out of the Luna-25 mission, as well as the subsequent Luna 26 and 27, and Russia was forced to replace European-made parts on the lander with locally built scientific instruments.

Russia’s long awaited return to the lunar surface comes not only at a time when Roscosmos is largely on the outs with major players in the space industry, but also as Russia tries to cement its partnership with China on building a base on the Moon. China is advancing its lunar program with aims to rival NASA’s Artemis program, including plans for a permanent base on the Moon’s surface. The International Lunar Research Station moon base was announced as a joint project between China and Russia in 2021, and other countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan later joined in on the project.

The Luna-25 mission explained

Following its launch, Luna-25 is expected to reach lunar orbit in five days and attempt a landing at one of three designated sites within the subsequent five to seven days, Reuters reports. India is also in the midst of its own lunar landing attempt with the launch of its Chandrayaan-3 mission, scheduled for touchdown on the Moon’s surface on August 23.

Landing on the Moon is no easy feat, as evidenced by Japan’s recent attempt to touchdown on the lunar surface with the privately owned Hakuto-R M1 lander. The Soviet Union, China, and the U.S. are the only three countries to have accomplished a soft landing on the surface of the Moon. Previous lunar landings, however, have mostly taken place near the Moon’s equator.

Should it stick the landing near the south pole, Luna-25 has a four-legged base and is expected to operate on the lunar surface for one year. The main purpose of the mission is to help develop technologies for landing on the Moon, as well as sampling lunar soil.

Ahead of the launch of Luna-25, Russia ordered the evacuation of a village in the far eastern region of the country due to a “one in a million chance” that rocket debris could hit that area, Reuters reported, adding that residents of Shakhtinsky will leave their homes for a period of around three hours, during which they will be taken to watch the launch and later hang back to avoid being crushed by pieces of the rocket.

Russia seems pretty confident in its attempt to land on the Moon, a renewed interest in a celestial surface it hasn’t touched in a very long time

For more spaceflight in your life, follow us on Twitter and bookmark Gizmodo’s dedicated Spaceflight page.

The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

It’s the most popular NBN speed in Australia for a reason. Here are the cheapest plans available.

At Gizmodo, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.