Russia successfully launches its robotic probe towards the ice of the moon’s south pole Science

Russia wants to become a superpower in space exploration again, countering the leadership shown today by the US and China. And their target is the moon. In particular, Moscow claims that its constituency Luna-25 Be the first to reach the coveted moon ice. And it’s on its way: the Soyuz rocket that aims to be humanity’s first forerunner to the Moon’s south pole has successfully launched the probe into space. Not an easy target: To date, only three countries have successfully landed probes on the moon: the Soviet Union, the United States, and China. In April, a Japanese probe crashed while trying to land on the moon by a private space agency. And the cold, dark pole’s disconnected regions further complicate the task.

“The rocket worked perfectly, the upper stage separated and now puts automatic navigation on a flight path to the moon,” the Russian space agency celebrated in a statement. “Robot Exploration Luna-25For the first time in the modern history of Russia, the nature of the Earth goes to the satellite.

The launch, scheduled for 2:10 a.m. Moscow time (1:10 a.m. Spanish Peninsular Time), was planned from the so-called Eastern Cosmodrome in Vostokny, a Siberian region 5,550 kilometers east of Moscow. Russia has not sent a probe to Earth’s natural satellite since 1976 Luna-24 He achieved great success in bringing back samples of lunar rocks. At the time, Russia was part of the Soviet Union, and the current leaders of Russian space exploration want to lay claim to that legacy.

The trip has given some impetus to the Russian scientific community, which has been hit hard by increasing Kremlin interference in universities and the persecution of some prominent researchers. “The objectives of Luna-25 They can be divided into technologists and scientists,” wrote Professor Maxim Litvak of the Russian Academy of Sciences on Kanal Nauga (Science Channel in Russian). “Almost half a century has passed since our last mission, and in the 21st century no one except the Chinese has landed on the moon. Several generations of engineers have passed by this time,” said Litvak, “and the polar region intrigues everyone in the scientific community.”

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Zvesta, the Russian Defense Ministry channel, has also focused the mission on its symbolic power for the Kremlin and its competition with the rest of the world to “conquer” the lunar pole. “Here’s the trick: Luna-25 Landing two days before the Indian mission Chandrayaan-3, if all goes according to plan. It took off on July 14 but has yet to land, so the question of who will arrive first remains open.

However, NASA President Bill Nelson downplayed both missions, saying there was a Chinese threat. “There aren’t many people who say that Russia is ready to take astronauts to the moon (…). I think the real space race is between us and China,” Nelson said this week, as he compared the arrival of Asian astronauts to the lunar south pole between Vietnam, China and the Philippines. He drew comparisons with Beijing’s bid for the disputed Spratly Islands.

A different space race

But today, in its ongoing quest to pioneer the South Pole, its rival is not America or mighty China, but India, which has begun its investigation. Chandrayaan-3 A landing near Kambam was planned weeks ago on August 23rd. Date of maximum reduction of competition margins. Luna-25 It plans to fly to the satellite for 5 days and then stay in that orbit for 5 to 7 days until it chooses the best moment for a soft landing maneuver. That scenario leaves a window to reach the moon between August 21 and 24, according to Russian space agency Roscosmos. They may win little by little or fail in one day.

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Despite the close coincidence of dates, the Russian space agency ensures that the two missions will not disturb each other as they have different landing areas planned. “There is no danger of interfering or colliding with each other. “There is enough space for everyone on the moon,” a Roscosmos spokesperson told Reuters. The main landing site chosen by Russia is near the Bogoslavsky Crater, about 120 kilometers from the landing site chosen by India for its lander. Also, another significant difference. Chandrayaan-3 Wants to conduct tests for two weeks Luna-25 Wants to explore the satellite for a year.

Russian Space Agency technicians are finalizing the details of the Luna-25 module.Roscosmos

The Academy of Sciences has designed a robotic arm for a mission that, unlike previous Soviet ones, is not planned to return to Earth with lunar samples, but to test new technologies on a satellite. The device weighs five and a half kilograms and is designed to dig up to 25 centimeters into the regolith and transfer the sample to an instrument that analyzes its composition.

Moscow evacuated 26 residents of a village in Russia’s Far East after a rocket’s phase could land on their heads, according to Roscosmos. A local official was quoted by Reuters. Residents of Shakhdinsky watched the launch from a privileged location and received a free breakfast after being evacuated for more than 3 hours.

Litvak emphasizes that successive Luna space programs will culminate in the delivery of several samples from the satellite’s polar region to Earth. Roscosmos Advanced Programs Director, Alexander Plushenko, announced the mission this week. Luna-26Focused on satellite orbit, planned for 2027.

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Locations selected for probe landings.Roscosmos

initiation Luna-25 Sanctions have tightened and the national currency has devalued massively in recent months, from 60 rubles to the euro in the spring to more than 107 rubles now, signaling a coup d’état from the Kremlin. The news that Russia will bear this cost even after the war, another scientist of the Academy of Sciences, Nathan Eismond, an expert at the Space Research Institute, highlighted in an interview. “It took more than 10 years to prepare for the release, and during this time there was a period of starvation,” he says.

Purpose Luna-25, whose initial release is scheduled for 2021, is the ice of the dark craters of the moon’s southern tip, a source of water for a future human base and future missions to Mars. Scientists believe it may contain significant amounts of ice water that can be used to extract fuel and oxygen and drink it. NASA wants to continue its Artemis program and establish a base near the Pole.

The precedent is not favorable to Russia. Luna-25 It is the first deep space mission to be fully developed in Russia since November 2011 Phobos-Grunt towards Mars, but crashed on Earth. “The Moon is the seventh continent from Earth, so we are simply doomed, so to speak, to tame it,” said Lev Zeleny, a space researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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