Russia Is Launching Luna-25 to the Moon: How and When to Watch

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Russia is planning to send a robotic lander, Luna-25, to the moon’s south polar region, marking their return to lunar exploration since the space race with the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. This mission, which has been in development for years, is seen as a way for President Vladimir V. Putin to showcase Russia’s great-power status. The launch is scheduled for Thursday at 7:10 p.m. Eastern time from the Vostochny spaceport in Russia’s far eastern region. Russian television network RT and Roscosmos, the Russia space agency, will be streaming coverage of the launch on their respective platforms.

After the Apollo program’s success in the late 1960s and early 1970s, interest in lunar exploration declined among the world’s space agencies. However, the discovery of water ice in the moon’s polar regions has sparked renewed interest. Russia has been trying to revive its lunar program for the past 25 years, with aspirations of sending Russian astronauts to the moon. However, limited financing, economic sanctions, and technological limitations have hindered the progress of the Russian space program. Some Russians have even expressed doubts about the feasibility of their moon exploration program, viewing it as a political move to demonstrate resilience against sanctions.

The Luna-25 mission will launch on a Soyuz rocket, which will put the spacecraft into Earth’s orbit. After system checks, the rocket’s upper stage will propel the lander on a five-day journey to the moon. Once at the moon, the lander will enter a circular orbit 60 miles above the surface and then adjust itself into an elliptical orbit, getting as close as a dozen miles from the surface. The primary landing target is an area north of Boguslawsky crater, with planned experiments including soil analysis and potential water ice excavation. If the landing is successful, Luna-25 is expected to operate for at least a year.

Several countries have attempted moon landings in recent years, with China being the only country to achieve success so far. Russia’s Luna-25 mission coincides with India’s Chandrayaan 3 landing attempt, scheduled for the same time in the south polar region of the moon. Russia’s lunar program is planned to include more ambitious missions, such as an orbiter (Luna-26) and a larger lander (Luna-27).

While Russia continues its cooperation with NASA on the International Space Station, they declined to join NASA’s Artemis program to send astronauts back to the moon. Instead, Russia announced a partnership with China to build a lunar base in the 2030s. However, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to the European Space Agency ending collaboration with Roscosmos on planetary missions. The ESA removed an experimental navigation camera from Luna-25 and terminated cooperation on the ExoMars mission. This decision has significant implications for future collaboration between Europe and Russia in space exploration.

In conclusion, Russia’s return to lunar exploration with the Luna-25 mission reflects President Putin’s focus on restoring Russia’s great-power status. The launch is set to take place on Thursday, and if successful, Luna-25’s landing on the moon’s south polar region will mark the beginning of a series of ambitious missions as part of Russia’s lunar program.

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