Russia’s Luna-25 space craft crashed into the moon after it wheeled out of control, failing the country’s mission after 47 years in what defines the downfall of a once powerful space programme.
According to Russia’s Roskosmos, its space company, it had disconnected contact with the spacecraft on Saturday at 03:57 pm MUT (11:57 GMT) after a problem as the craft was moved into pre-landing orbit. However, Russia had planned for a soft landing of the craft for Monday. In a statement, Russia’s space agency said, “The apparatus moved into an unpredictable orbit and ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the surface of the Moon.”
Roskosmosn further said that an interdepartmental commission had been established to look into the circumstances surrounding the loss of the Luna-25 craft, whose task had given Moscow hope that Russia was rejoining the large power moon race.
The disaster highlighted Russia’s declining space prowess since the height of the Cold War rivalry, when Moscow launched Sputnik 1, the first satellite to orbit the Earth, in 1957, and Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to enter space in 1961.
The $2 trillion economy of Russia is also currently dealing with its biggest external challenge in decades as a result of Western sanctions and the largest land conflict in Europe since World War Two.
Russia had not launched a moon mission since Luna-24 in 1976, when communist leader Leonid Brezhnev was in charge of the Kremlin, despite the fact that moon missions are incredibly challenging and numerous US and Soviet attempts had failed.
After a news item about flames on Tenerife and a 4-minute segment about a professional holiday for Russian pilots and crews, Russian state television placed the story about the loss of Luna-25 at number 8 in its line-up at noon and gave it just 26 seconds of airtime.
Russia has been competing with China and the United States, both of which have advanced lunar aspirations, as well as India, whose Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft is expected to touch down on the moon’s south pole this week.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced on X, formerly Twitter, that Chandrayaan-3 was scheduled to land on August 23 as soon as news of the Luna-25 disaster spread.
“The flight control system was a vulnerable area, which had to go through many fixes,” said Anatoly Zak, the creator and publisher of www.RussianSpaceWeb.com which tracks Russian space programmes.
The Luna-25 mission was intended to demonstrate to Russian officials that their country can compete in space with superpowers despite its post-Soviet fall and the enormous costs of the Ukraine war.
As is customary for the Soviet Union, the United States, China, and India, Zak claimed that Russia had likewise chosen to launch a considerably more complex orbital mission before attempting the much more ambitious moon landing.
Russian scientists have frequently lamented the weakening of the space programme due to unscrupulous officials, inept managers who are eager for unattainable vanity space projects, and a degradation in the quality of the country’s post-Soviet scientific education system.
Mikhail Marov, a renowned Soviet scientist and astronomer, commented, “It is so sad that it was not possible to land the apparatus.” Marov expressed his expectation for a thorough investigation of the causes of the crash to the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.
Marov, 90, was admitted to a hospital in Moscow after Luna-25’s failure was reported, though it was unclear exactly what ailment he had. He remarked, “This was perhaps the last hope for me to see a revival of our lunar program.”