Russia’s Luna-25 mission experienced a crash landing on the Moon’s surface, as reported by the country’s space agency on Sunday. This development now paves the way for India’s Chandrayaan-3 to potentially become the first spacecraft to achieve a landing near the lunar south pole.
On Sunday morning, Chandrayaan-3 transitioned into its pre-landing orbit at an altitude of 25 km x 134 km above the lunar surface. This maneuver was in preparation for its scheduled landing on Wednesday. The spacecraft is poised to begin its descent around 5:45 pm IST on Wednesday, with the actual touchdown expected about 15 minutes later.
Initially slated to make a soft landing on Monday, August 21, two days ahead of Chandrayaan-3, Luna-25 faced technical issues on Saturday during its attempt to reach the pre-landing orbit. Both spacecraft were intended to touch down in the vicinity of the lunar south pole.
The Russian space agency, Roscosmos, announced on Saturday the emergence of an “emergency situation” that hindered the planned orbit-reduction maneuver for Luna-25. Subsequently, communication with the spacecraft was lost. Although efforts were made to rectify the problem, Roscosmos confirmed on Sunday afternoon that Luna-25 had crash-landed on the lunar surface, bringing the mission to an unfortunate end.
According to Roscosmos, the measures taken over August 19 and 20 to establish contact with Luna-25 and locate it proved ineffective. A preliminary analysis indicated that due to deviations in actual impulse parameters from the calculated values, the spacecraft deviated from its intended orbit and ultimately collided with the lunar surface.
Luna-25 represented Russia’s first lunar mission in the modern era. The last lunar mission by the Soviet Union occurred in 1976, culminating in the successful landing of Luna-24. The crash of Luna-25 underscores the challenges inherent in contemporary lunar landings, as attempts by several countries, including India, Israel, and Japan, have all ended in crash-landings during the final stages. Chandrayaan-3’s upcoming landing attempt could potentially improve this record for India.
Japan is also poised to make another lunar landing attempt, with its SLIM spacecraft scheduled for launch later this month. The unsuccessful Luna-25 mission has now positioned Chandrayaan-3 as a contender for achieving the first landing near the Moon’s southern pole. Both spacecraft were targeting a landing site around 70 degrees South latitude on the lunar surface.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) confirmed that Chandrayaan-3 is operating normally and preparing for its scheduled descent on Wednesday. The powered descent is set to commence on August 23, 2023, around 17:45 hours IST, coinciding with the start of the lunar day, which lasts approximately 14 Earth days. The module will undergo internal checks while awaiting sunrise at the designated lunar landing site.
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