Russia says Luna-25 probe has crashed into the moon

The Roscosmos space agency had earlier reported an "abnormal situation" on Luna-25, Russia's first moon probe in almost 50 years

Roscosmos' Luna-25 at takeoff from Vostochny Cosmodrome last week (photo: DW)
Roscosmos' Luna-25 at takeoff from Vostochny Cosmodrome last week (photo: DW)


Russia's space corporation Roscosmos said today, 20 August, that its Luna-25 spacecraft has crashed into the moon after it spun into uncontrolled orbit.

The mission was the first stage of Russia's new lunar programme and Luna-25 was Moscow's first moon probe since 1976.

What we know so far

The Russian space agency on Saturday, 19 August, said there had been an "abnormal situation" during an operation to bring the craft into a landing pre-orbit.

Preliminary findings, it said on Sunday, showed the lander "has ceased to exist, following a collision with the Moon's surface".

"During the operation, an unplanned situation arose on board the automatic station, which did not allow the manoeuvre to be carried out under the given parameters".

Specialists are investigating the incident to determine the cause, Roscosmos said.

The probe had been due to touch down near the lunar South Pole on Monday, 21 August. Among its tasks was a search for water, with Russia aiming to establish a base on the Moon by 2040. The craft was expected to remain on the lunar surface for a year, collecting and analysing samples.

The rocket took off last week, on August 10, from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia's Far East region. The lander then successfully entered the moon's orbit on Wednesday, August 16.

West cuts cooperation with Moscow on space

Roscosmos had originally been working with the European Space Agency (ESA) on its lunar programme. However, after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the ESA ended its cooperation with Moscow. Russia's access to Western technology has been curtailed since sanctions were imposed over the invasion.

The Luna-25 had been set to carry a small moon rover, but that plan had to be abandoned to reduce weight and improve reliability.

Moon missions: first to latest

The Soviet Union was the first country to land on the moon in 1959. However, Since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has failed to send probes beyond the Earth's orbit. Several moon missions it planned in the past decades were all either delayed or had to be shelved.

The failure of Russia's 2011 Phobos-Grunt mission to one of the moons of Mars highlighted the challenges that have faced Russia's space programme. The spacecraft did not even fully exit the earth's orbit and fell into the Pacific Ocean more than two months after launch.

Meanwhile, India's Chandrayaan-3, which was originally expected to reach the lunar south pole only after Luna-25, is still in the race now.

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