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Friday, December 8, 2023

Russia is to launch its first mission to the moon in nearly 50 years

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LONDON — Russia is scheduled to launch its first mission to the moon in practically 50 years on Friday, pitting it in an area race with India which can also be aiming to land a lunar craft this month.

The launch of the Luna-25 craft to the moon will probably be Russia’s first since 1976 when it was a part of the Soviet Union and will probably be performed with out help from the European Area Company, which ended cooperation with Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian lunar lander is anticipated to succeed in the moon on Aug. 23, about the identical day as an Indian craft which was launched on July 14.

Each international locations’ modules are headed for the lunar south pole, an space the place no spacecraft has landed easily. Solely three governments have managed profitable moon landings: the Soviet Union, the USA and China.

Roscosmos, Russia’s house company, mentioned it needs to indicate Russia “is a state able to delivering a payload to the moon,” and “guarantee Russia’s assured entry to the moon’s floor.”

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“Research of the moon just isn’t the objective,” mentioned Vitaly Egorov, a preferred Russian house analyst. “The objective is political competitors between two superpowers — China and the USA — and a lot of different international locations which additionally wish to declare the title of house superpower.”

Sanctions imposed on Russia after it invaded Ukraine make it more durable for it to entry Western expertise, impacting its house program. The Luna-25 was initially meant to hold a small moon rover however that concept was deserted to cut back the load of the craft for improved reliability, analysts say.

“Overseas electronics are lighter, home electronics are heavier,” Egorov mentioned. “Whereas scientists may need the duty of learning lunar water, for Roscosmos the principle job is solely to land on the moon. To get better misplaced Soviet experience and discover ways to carry out this job in a brand new period.”

The Luna-25 will probably be launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East. The spaceport is a pet mission of Russian President Vladimir Putin and is vital to his efforts to make Russia an area superpower and transfer Russian launches from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

It’s unclear if Putin will attend the launch of the lunar lander. In 2016, he was current on the failed launch of a Soyuz rocket, after which Russian media reported he severely rebuked officers.

A earlier Indian try and land on the moon’s south pole in 2019 ended when the lander crashed into the moon’s floor.

The lunar south pole is of explicit curiosity to scientists, who consider the completely shadowed polar craters might include water. The frozen water within the rocks might be reworked by future explorers into air and rocket gasoline.

“The moon is basically untouched and the entire historical past of the moon is written on its face,” mentioned Ed Bloomer, an astronomer at Britain’s Royal Observatory, Greenwich. “It’s pristine and like nothing you get on Earth. It’s its personal laboratory.”

The Luna-25 is to take samples of moon rock and mud. The samples are essential to understanding the moon’s environment forward of constructing any base there, “in any other case we might be constructing issues and having to close them down six months later as a result of the whole lot has successfully been sand-blasted,” Bloomer mentioned.


Related Press writers Marcia Dunn in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Jim Heintz in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed to this story.

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