Russian Lunar Probe – Luna-25 – Races Towards The Moon, Scientific Devices Activated – Roscosmos

As the race to the moon intensifies between India’s Chandrayaan-3 and Russia’s Luna-25, scientific devices were activated for the Luna-25 automatic station, Russian space agency Roscosmos announced on Sunday.

“Today, the scientific equipment developed by the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences was activated for the first time in the conditions of the space flight. The service telemetric data from all the devices showed their normal operation,” Roscosmos said.

The first measurement data on a flight path to the Moon was received, and a research team started to analyze it, it said.

“The Luna-25 continues its flight to the Earth’s natural satellite. All of the automatic station’s systems are operating in normal mode, communications are stable, and the energy balance is positive,” Roscosmos said.

Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported, Russia launched its lunar mission, Luna-25, after 47 years, sending the lander toward the moon.

Russia could upstage India’s endeavor to become the first country to reach the South Pole of the Moon. Despite being launched four weeks after India’s Chandrayan-3, Luna-25 is likely to make the touchdown shortly before or at the same time on August 23.

The south pole of the Moon is a potential source of water. Rocky terrain makes landing on the south pole a difficult but promising destination, as scientists believe it holds large quantities of ice.

The ice can be used to extract fuel and oxygen, besides providing drinking water. Oxygen and hydrogen can serve as rocket fuels to travel to Mars and beyond one day, while water can support the first human colonies.

The lift-off location was chosen so that the entire mission stays within Russia’s borders (normally, rockets are launched from Kazakhstan). It also allows for a more direct trajectory that avoids large inhabited areas.

The Luna-25 is described by Russian state news agency Tass as “the first domestically-made probe in modern Russia’s history.” Luna-25 spacecraft will take about five days to travel to the Moon. Thereafter it will spend around five to seven days in lunar orbit before descending to one of the three potential landing sites near the pole.

“It is planned that the device will be the first in the world to carry out a soft landing on the surface of the moon in the south pole region and conduct contact studies of the lunar soil for the presence of ice at the landing site,” a statement from the Russian space agency Roscosmos said.

The race has reminded the world of the Cold War era’s space race between USSR and the USA. The name of the lunar mission of Russia takes after Luna-24, which managed to reach an equatorial zone of the Moon, take soil samples, and send them back to Earth in 1976.

The US then sent astronauts to the Moon, who returned with lunar rocks.

In the 21st century, a new race to the Moon is on, but Russia is continuing with its competitiveness when it comes to space.

The US Space Agency NASA announced in April 2023 that it will send “humanity’s crew” to the south pole of the Moon by the end of 2024. The African-American crew, including the first woman, has been assigned to the US first crewed lunar mission in half a century.

Russia might not be able to match the feat yet, but it is certainly aiming to become the first country to land in unchartered territory on the Moon, which in the future can be a springboard to the onward journey to the Red Planet Mars’.

Luna-25, originally scheduled to be launched in 2021, has been delayed owing to technical difficulties. The ongoing war with Ukraine and the ensuing Western sanctions have proved to be a big impediment for the Roscosmos.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine, Roscosmos was collaborating with the European Space Agency, which was going to contribute to the project. However, as ESA pulled out of the project, Russia was left alone on its trip to the Moon.

Russia has chosen the Boguslawsky crater, named after a Prussian artillery officer who took part in the invasion of Russia during the Napoleonic wars, besides two more locations identified in case something goes awry. The landing point is believed to have water, a key element for future manned missions.

A Soyuz rocket launches Russia’s Luna-25 moon lander on Aug. 10, 2023. Roscosmos)

Landing on the Lunar surface has been challenging as the Moon lacks an atmosphere that could slow down a spacecraft. So far, only the US, erstwhile USSR, and China have managed it.

The Luna-25 will have to rely on its rockets to reduce its speed and avoid landing on a steep area and falling over, which happened to some of its predecessors half a century ago. In April 2022, the Japanese probe Hakuto-R crashed while trying to land on the Moon.

The day on the Moon is equivalent to 14.5 Earth days of sunlight and as many at night. During the day, the temperature goes up to 120 degrees Celsius; at night, the Mercury plummets to 200 degrees Celsius below zero.

The Russian probe will carry solar panels that will operate during the day and a radioisotope device to generate heat with plutonium at night when it hibernates until dawn.

After its launch on August 11, the Russian spacecraft will take about four to five days to reach the Moon. Once it reaches the orbit, it will fire up its rockets to descend towards the south pole. If all goes as planned, Luna-25 could create history.

  • Ritu Sharma has been a journalist for over a decade, writing on defense, foreign affairs, and nuclear technology.
  • She can be reached at ritu.sharma (at)