Russia’s Luna-25 mission suffered a crash landing on the lunar surface, as confirmed by the country’s space agency on Sunday. This development paves the way for India’s Chandrayaan-3 to potentially become the first spacecraft to successfully land near the Moon’s southern pole.
On Sunday morning, Chandrayaan-3 transitioned into a pre-landing orbit positioned at 25 km x 134 km from the lunar surface. This orbit adjustment precedes its scheduled landing on Wednesday. The descent is set to commence at approximately 5:45 pm IST on Wednesday, with an expected touchdown 15 minutes later.
Initially, both Luna-25 and Chandrayaan-3 were scheduled to land in the region surrounding the lunar south pole, with Luna-25’s landing planned for Monday, August 21, just two days ahead of Chandrayaan-3. However, Luna-25 encountered complications on Saturday while attempting to move into its pre-landing orbit.
Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, reported an “emergency situation” aboard Luna-25, preventing the successful execution of the orbit-reduction maneuver and leading to a loss of communication with the spacecraft. While attempts were made to address the issue, Roscosmos announced on Sunday that Luna-25 had crash-landed on the lunar surface, marking a disappointing end to the mission. The agency noted that despite efforts on August 19 and 20 to locate and communicate with Luna-25, no progress was made.
Initial analysis by Roscosmos revealed that a deviation between the actual and calculated impulse parameters caused the automatic station to shift into an unintended orbit, resulting in a collision with the lunar surface.
Luna-25 represented Russia’s first modern lunar expedition since the successful Luna-24 landing in 1976. The mission’s failure, coupled with recent unsuccessful soft landing attempts by India, Israel, and Japan, underscores the complexities of such endeavors. The upcoming Chandrayaan-3 mission, however, aims to potentially reverse this trend and accomplish a successful lunar landing.
Had Luna-25 succeeded, it would have achieved the historic distinction of becoming the first spacecraft to land near the Moon’s southern pole. Notably, all previous landings have taken place in the equatorial region. With Luna-25’s setback, Chandrayaan-3 now has the opportunity to claim this milestone. Both missions were intended to touch down at approximately 70 degrees south latitude on the Moon.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) confirmed that Chandrayaan-3 remains in proper operating condition and is undergoing preparations for its scheduled descent on Wednesday, coinciding with the beginning of the lunar daytime lasting about 14 Earth days.
ISRO explained that the module will undergo internal assessments and await sunrise at its designated landing site on the Moon. The powered descent phase is anticipated to commence on August 23, 2023, around 17:45 hours IST.