Russia is rushing to reach the south pole of the moon before the US, India, and China in its first lunar mission since the 70s.

Russia is rushing to reach the south pole of the moon before the US, India, and China in its first lunar mission since the 70s.

Russia Sets Sights on Lunar South Pole: A New Space Race Begins

Moon Mission

Russia has embarked on its first mission to the moon since 1976, aiming to achieve what no other nation has before – a soft landing on the coveted south pole. This ambitious goal puts them in direct competition with the likes of the US, China, and India, who also have their sights set on lunar exploration.

The Luna-25 mission, launched by Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, took off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the far eastern Amur region on Friday morning. This launch marks a significant milestone for Russia, as it seeks to revitalize its space program after almost half a century of dormancy.

The mission involves a Soyuz-2.1b rocket carrying a lander, which is scheduled to attempt a soft landing on the moon’s south pole by August 21. If successful, this would be the first-ever soft landing in this region, allowing the lander to collect invaluable data over the course of the next year.

However, soft landings on the moon are notoriously risky and prone to failure. Nevertheless, Russia remains undeterred in its pursuit of this strategic objective.

“The moon is the seventh continent of the Earth, so we are simply ‘condemned’, as it were, to tame it,” said Lev Zeleny, a space researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences. As other nations recognize its scientific and commercial potential, the south pole has become a focal point for lunar exploration in the near future.

The Luna-25 lander will play a vital role in collecting and analyzing regolith, the moon’s soil, to deepen our understanding of its properties and search for traces of water. As Russia’s chief scientist for the mission, Maxim Litvak, succinctly put it, their most important task is “to sit where no one has sat.”

Both the US and China are collaborating with Russia to build lunar stations in the south pole area within the next decade. The primary attraction of this region is the presence of water resources, which can potentially be leveraged for fuel during moon missions or even for rockets en route to Mars.

Amidst the global space race, Russia faces stiff competition from India, whose Chandrayaan-3 mission has been orbiting the moon since August 6. However, the successful launch of missions by Russia and India does not guarantee their ultimate success. Soft landings, in particular, pose significant challenges, as evidenced by the recent crash of a Japanese private company’s mission on the moon’s surface.

Nevertheless, Roscosmos assured that there is no danger of interference or collision between the missions of Russia and India. They firmly believe that there is ample space for everyone on the moon.

It is worth noting that Russia’s lunar ambitions were delayed by its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The Luna-25 mission was originally slated to launch two years earlier. The European Space Agency, initially expected to provide equipment for the lander, severed its cooperation with Russia following the invasion.

Undeterred by these setbacks, Russia is now reigniting its space program with the Luna-25 mission acting as a stepping stone. Future plans include sending a rocket to orbit the moon with Luna-26, deploying a drilling rig with Luna-27, and eventually bringing back regolith from the moon with Luna-28. However, specific timelines for these missions have not yet been shared.

As the race to conquer the moon’s south pole heats up, the world awaits with bated breath to see who will emerge victorious in this cosmic endeavor.