Russia launches lunar lander in race to find water on moon | Inquirer Technology

Russia launches lunar lander in race to find water on moon

/ 07:55 AM August 11, 2023

MOSCOW — Russia has launched its first moon-landing spacecraft in 47 years in a bid to be the first power to make a soft landing on the lunar south pole, a region believed to hold coveted pockets of water ice.

A Soyuz 2.1v rocket carrying the Luna-25 craft blasted off from the Vostochny cosmodrome, 3,450 miles (5,550 km) east of Moscow, on Friday at 0211 Moscow time. The lander is due to touch down on the moon on August 23, Russia’s space agency said.

The Russian lunar mission, the first since 1976, is racing against India, which sent up its Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander last month, and more broadly with the United States and China, which both have advanced lunar exploration programs.

For centuries, astronomers have wondered about water on the moon, which is 100 times drier than the Sahara. NASA maps in 2018 showed water ice in the shadowed parts of the moon, and in 2020 NASA confirmed water exists on the sunlight areas.


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Rough terrain makes a landing there difficult, but the south pole is a prized destination because scientists believe it may hold significant quantities of ice that could be used to extract fuel and oxygen, as well as for drinking water.

Russian space agency Roscosmos said in reply to questions from Reuters that its Luna-25 spacecraft would take five days to fly to the moon and then spend five to seven days in lunar orbit before descending on one of three possible landing sites near the pole – a timetable that implies it could match or narrowly beat its Indian rival to the moon’s surface.

‘Space for everyone’

Roscosmos said the two missions would not get in each other’s way 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.


Chandrayaan-3 is due to run experiments for two weeks, while Luna-25 will work on the moon for a year. In April, Japan’s ispace failed in an attempt to make the first moon landing by a private space company.

READ: Tokyo-based space startup plans world-first moon landing

With a mass of 1.8 tons and carrying 31 kg (68 pounds) of scientific equipment, Luna-25 will use a scoop to take rock samples from a depth of up to 15 cm (6 inches) to test for the presence of frozen water that could support human life.


“The moon is the seventh continent of the Earth so we are simply ‘condemned’, as it were, to tame it,” said Lev Zeleny, a space researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

The launch, originally planned for October 2021, has been delayed for nearly two years. The European Space Agency had planned to test its Pilot-D navigation camera by attaching it to Luna-25, but broke off its ties to the project after Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year.

Residents of a village in Russia’s far east would be evacuated from their homes at 7.30 a.m. on Friday because of a “one in a million chance” that one of the rocket stages that launches Luna-25 could fall to earth there, a local official said.

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Alexei Maslov told Russian news outlet Business FM that the 26 inhabitants of Shakhtinsky would be taken to a place where they could watch the launch and get a free breakfast, and return within 3-1/2 hours. He said fishermen and hunters in the region had also been warned.


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TOPICS: lunar lander, Moon, Russia
TAGS: lunar lander, Moon, Russia

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