A Russian robotic rover has crashed into the moon, Russia’s space agency said on Sunday, citing the results of a preliminary investigation a day after it lost contact with the vehicle.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union became the first country to put a satellite, a man and a woman, into orbit, the latest setback for a country in space travel.
The Luna-25 lander, Russia’s first space launch to the lunar surface since the 1970s, entered lunar orbit last Wednesday and is due to land early Monday. Moscow time on Saturday afternoon, according to Russian space agency Roscosmos, the spacecraft received orders to enter the orbit setting up for a lunar landing. But an inexplicable “emergency” occurred, and no orbital adjustment occurred.
On Sunday, Roscosmos said efforts to find and re-establish contact with the craft had failed and attributed the failure of the fix to Luna-25’s departure from its planned orbit, “which resulted in the cessation of its existence”. Collision on the Lunar Surface.”
It also said that an interim commission would be set up to investigate the reasons for the failure.
Launched on August 11, Luna-25 was intended to be the first mission to reach the South Pole of the Moon. Government space programs and private companies around the world are interested in that part of the moon because they believe it may contain water ice that could be used by astronauts for future space missions.
Another country, India, has a chance to land the first probe near the Moon’s south pole. Its Chandrayaan-3 mission was launched in July, but it opted for a more circuitous but fuel-efficient route to the moon. It is scheduled to attempt a landing on Wednesday.
India can win after Russia’s defeat President Vladimir V. It would be a blow to Putin, who has used Russian achievements in space as part and parcel of his power.
It’s part of the Kremlin’s narrative — compelling to many Russians — that Russia is a major country blocked by an American-led West that is jealous and threatened by Russia’s capabilities. As Russia works to realign its geopolitical ties, the country’s state-run space industry has been a particularly valuable tool.
“The interest in our programs is very high,” Yuri Borisov, the head of Russia’s space program, told a televised meeting in June. To Putin, he described Russia’s plan to expand space cooperation with African countries. The move is part of the Kremlin’s overall efforts to deepen economic and political ties with non-Western countries amid European and American sanctions.
Interest in the Luna-25 mission within Russia has been muted. The flight took off from the remote space station in Vostochny, in the country’s far east, at an hour when most Russians living in the country’s west were probably asleep. The progress of the mission to the moon was not a major subject in the state media.
In recent decades, Russia’s exploration of Earth’s solar system has fallen far from its Soviet-era heights.
The last unqualified victory was 35 years ago, and the Soviet Union was still intact. Twin spacecraft Vega 1 and Vega 2 were launched six days apart. Six months later, the two spacecraft flew past Venus, each leaving behind a capsule containing a lander that successfully landed on the hellish planet’s surface and a balloon that floated through the atmosphere when released. In March 1986, the two spacecraft passed within about 5,000 miles of Halley’s Comet, taking pictures and studying the dust and gas from the comet’s nucleus.
Subsequent missions to Mars, launched in 1988 and 1996, failed.
An awkward nadir came in 2011 with Phobos-Grunt, which is supposed to land on Phobos, the larger of Mars’ two moons, and bring back rock and dirt samples to Earth. But Phobos-Grunt never left Earth’s orbit after the engines that were supposed to send it to Mars failed to fire. A few months later, it burned up in Earth’s atmosphere.
An investigation later revealed that Russia’s financially strapped space agency had neglected to manufacture and test electronics components that had not been proven to withstand the cold and radiation of space.
Otherwise, Russia is limited to low-Earth orbit, including carrying astronauts to the International Space Station, which it manages jointly with NASA.
Luna-25 should have completed a year-long mission to study the composition of the lunar surface. It should also demonstrate technologies used in a series of robotic missions to the moon that Russia plans to launch to lay the groundwork for a future lunar base it plans to build with China.
But the schedule for those missions — Luna 26, 27 and 28 — has already slipped years from the original schedule, and more delays are now likely, especially as the Russian space program struggles financially and technologically because of the sanctions imposed later. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Although NASA and the European Space Agency continued to cooperate with Russia on the International Space Station, other joint space programs ended after the Ukraine invasion. Russia will have to transfer key components to the lunar missions, including training for the Luna-27 lander, which was supposed to come from Europe.
Russia struggled to develop new space hardware, especially electronics that would function reliably in the harsh conditions of space.
“Without better electronics you can’t really fly in space, or at least not fly in space for a long time,” said Anatoly Zak, the publisher. RussianSpaceWeb.com, which monitors Russia’s space activities. “Soviet electronics were always behind. They were always behind the West in science and technology.
He added: “The whole Russian space program is really affected by this problem.”
Other ambitious Russian space projects are also behind schedule and official announcements will take longer to complete.
The Ankara family of rockets, which have been in development for two decades, have only been launched six times.
A few days ago, Vladimir Kochevnikov, chief designer of Russia’s next space station, told the Interfax news agency that Oryol is a modern replacement for the venerable Soyuz capsule. It will make its first flight in 2028.
In 2020, the head of Roscosmos at the time, Dmitry Rogozin, said that the Oryol’s first flight would take place in 2023 – that is, in three years, the launch date had slipped by five years.
Landing on the moon is treacherous, with China the only country to successfully do so this century – three times, most recently in December 2020. Three other missions have crashed in recent years, most recently an attempt by Japanese company IceSpace. . Its Hakuto-R Mission 1 lander crashed in April after a software glitch caused the vehicle to misjudge its altitude.