This Friday, Russia launched its first robotic mission to the Moon in almost 50 years with the aim of giving new impetus to its space program, which has accumulated serious difficulties in recent years and which is now conditioned and limited by the sanctions it suffers. the country on account of the invasion of Ukraine.
The launch of the Luna-25 module is the first Russian mission to the Moon since 1976, when the former Soviet Union was at the forefront of the conquest of space and stood out precisely for its lunar program. After losing to the United States in 1969 the race to put humans on the satellite, the USSR opted to promote automated exploration missions, which were less expensive, less risky and equally or more effective from a scientific point of view than manned ones.
Thus, the missions of the Luna 16 to 24 probes took place, between 1970 and 1976, among which the Luna 17 and 21 stood out, which had on board two wheeled exploration vehicles, the Lunojod 1 and the Lunojod 2, which were remotely controlled from Earth. Also successful were the Luna 20 and 24 missions, designed to collect samples and bring them to Earth. The first returned to Earth on September 24, 1970 with 101 grams of lunar basalt and the second returned with 170 grams of soil samples on August 22, 1976, soon 50 years ago.
But since the fall of the USSR, Moscow has faced a series of difficulties such as lack of funding and corruption scandals that have slowed its space program.
The Soyuz rocket carrying the new Luna-25 probe, weighing almost 800 kilos, took off from the Vostochni space base, located in the Amur oblast (Siberia), and built since 2007 by order of Vladimir Putin, in the Far East, as a complement and future replacement of the historic Baikonur Cosmodrome. According to images broadcast live by the Roscosmos space agency. The aircraft rose, leaving behind a thick cloud of smoke and flames that stood out against the gray sky.
The device is scheduled to arrive in lunar orbit in five days, where it will spend between three and seven days to choose a good landing site in the south pole area of the satellite. A Roscosmos source contacted by AFP assures that the moon landing is planned for August 21.
First time in history
«For the first time in history there will be a moon landing at the lunar south pole. Until now, everyone landed on the moon in the equatorial zone,” said diplomat Alexander Blokhin in a recent interview with the official newspaper ‘Rossiiskaya Gazeta’.
The Russian space agency plans a one-year mission with the aim of collecting samples, analyzing the soil and carrying out “long-term scientific research.” This launch occurs in a context of isolation of the Russian program, since Roscosmos is vetoed by Western powers.
In line with its diplomatic strategy, Russia seeks to develop space cooperation with China. Independent Russian analyst Vitali Yegorov stated that this mission is a test for Moscow’s space program. “The most important question is: Can it land on the moon?” he asked himself.
Russian President Vladimir Putin promised to maintain the space program, despite the sanctions, citing as an example the moment when the USSR sent the first man into space in 1961, amid tensions with the West. “We are guided by the ambition of our ancestors to move forward, despite difficulties and attempts to hinder us,” Putin said last year at a visit to Vostochny.
For his part, the director of Roscosmos, Yuri Borisov, acknowledged in June that the mission is “risky.” “In the world, the possibility of success of such missions is estimated at 70%,” he said in a meeting with Putin.
The space sector is a source of pride in Russia, since the Soviets launched the first satellite into orbit, Sputnik, managed to put the first animal into orbit with the mission of the dog Laika and then sent the first man into space, the cosmonaut Yuri gagarin. However, the United States won the space race when Neil Armstrong reached the Moon in 1969.
The Russian space program, which relies heavily on Soviet technologies, struggles to innovate and suffers from a lack of funding as Moscow prioritizes military spending. In addition, it has been tainted by corruption scandals and launch failures, in addition to facing increasing competition from the United States, China and private companies such as billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX.