A Soyuz-2.1b rocket booster with a Fregat upper stage and the lunar landing spacecraft Luna-25 blasts off from a launchpad at the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the far eastern Amur region, Russia, in this still image from video taken Aug. 11, 2023, local time. (Roscosmos via Reuters)
Russia has successfully launched its first moon-landing spacecraft in 47 years in a race to find water on the moon.
A Soyuz 2.1v rocket carrying the Luna-25 craft launched from the Vostochny cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East, some 3,450 miles (5,550 kilometers) east of Moscow, on Friday at 2:11 a.m. Moscow time. A video feed from Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, showed the Luna-25 craft having launched successfully.
It marks Russia’s first moon mission since 1976, when it was part of the Soviet Union.
The Soviet Union, the United States, and China are the only three nations to have achieved successful moon landings. Now, India and Russia are setting their sights on being the first to land at the moon’s south pole.
India launched its Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander on July 14. The estimated arrival time of the Indian craft is around the same day as Russia’s.
Roscosmos told Reuters that the two missions would not interfere with each other, because they have different landing areas planned. “There is no danger that they interfere with each other or collide. There is enough space for everyone on the moon,” it said.
India previously tried to land at the moon’s south pole in 2019, but failed; its lander crashed into the moon’s surface.
Russia aims to become the first global leader to achieve a soft landing on the moon’s southern pole. Roscosmos said it wants to show Russia “is a state capable of delivering a payload to the moon,” and “ensure Russia’s guaranteed access to the moon’s surface.”
The moon is 100 times drier than the Sahara, but scientists believe it contains valuable reserves of water ice. NASA maps in 2018 showed water ice in shadowed parts of the moon, and NASA in 2020 confirmed that water does exist in the sun-lit areas.
Landing on the moon is complicated due to the rough terrain, yet its south pole is valued as it is believed by scientists to have abundant amounts of ice. The frozen water in the rocks could be transformed by future explorers into rocket fuel, oxygen, and possibly drinking water.
The moon-landing craft is on a mission to take samples of moon rock and dust, which will be crucial to understand the moon’s environment ahead of building any lunar base, according to Ed Bloomer, an astronomer at Britain’s Royal Observatory, Greenwich.
Vitaly Egorov, a popular Russian space analyst, told The Associated Press that the study of the moon “is not the goal.” He added: “The goal is political competition between two superpowers—China and the USA—and a number of other countries which also want to claim the title of space superpower.”
The Russian spacecraft is expected to take about 5.5 days to travel to the moon’s vicinity. Once there, it will orbit the moon for a period ranging from 3 to 7 days at an altitude of about 100 kilometers (62 miles) before making its descent to the lunar surface.
Russia suffered sanctions after it invaded Ukraine, which made it harder for Moscow to access Western technology, which impacted its space program.
The Luna-25 craft was initially meant to carry a small moon rover, but the idea was scrapped to reduce the weight of the craft for improved reliability, according to analysts.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times
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