Russia launched its first moon-landing spacecraft in 47 years on Thursday, in a bid to become the first power to make a soft landing at the lunar south pole, a region believed to hold coveted deposits of water ice.
Russia’s lunar mission, its first since 1976, is racing against India, which sent its Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander last month, and more broadly with the United States and China, both of which have advanced exploration programs. of the month.
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 02:11am Moscow time.
The lander is expected to land on the moon on August 21, Russian space chief Yuri Borisov told Interfax on Friday. Russia’s space agency Roscosmos previously pegged August 23 as the landing date.
“Now we wait for the 21stSt. I hope that a proper soft landing on the moon will happen,” Borisov told workers at the Vostochny cosmodrome after the launch, according to Interfax.
Luna-25, which is about the size of a small car, will aim to operate for a year at the south pole of the moon, where scientists from NASA and other space agencies will soon years ago noticed signs of water ice in the shadow craters of the region.
Many are riding on the Luna-25 mission, as the Kremlin says Western sanctions over Ukraine’s war, most of which target Moscow’s aerospace sector, have failed to dent Russia’s economy.
The moonshot will also test Russia’s growing independence in space after its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine severed nearly all of Moscow’s space ties with the West except for its role on the International Space Station, where the space agency’s cooperation with Russia in NASA is seen as essential to the safety of the outpost.
“Russia’s ambitions on the moon are mixed with many different things. I think first and foremost, it is an expression of national power on the global stage,” Asif Siddiqi, professor of history at Fordham University, said to Reuters.
US astronaut Neil Armstrong became famous in 1969 for being the first man to walk on the moon, but the Soviet Union’s Luna-2 mission was the first spacecraft to reach the moon’s surface in 1959, and Luna-9 that mission in 1966 was the first. to make a soft landing there.
Moscow then focused on exploring Mars and since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has not sent probes beyond Earth orbit.
The Luna-25 spacecraft is expected to leave Earth’s orbit at 3:30 a.m. in Moscow on Friday.