Russia's first Moon mission in almost 50 years, the Luna-25 probe, crashed on the lunar surface after an unspecified incident during pre-landing manoeuvres, the Russian space agency said on Sunday. The mission, which has faced considerable delays in the past, was launched earlier this month.
Expectations are high in the scientific community as two missions, including India’s Chandrayaan-3, aimed to land on the Moon’s south pole region. Chandrayaan-3 is expected to touch down on the surface of the Moon around 6.04 pm on Wednesday, 23 August.
According to an AFP report, communication with Luna-25 was lost at 2:57 pm (1157 GMT) on Saturday, Roscosmos said. Preliminary findings indicated that the lander "has ceased to exist following a collision with the Moon's surface".
"Measures taken on August 19 and 20 to locate the craft and make contact with it were unsuccessful," the space agency added. The 800-kilogramme (1,760-pound) Luna-25 probe was to have made a soft landing on Monday, 21 August, on the Moon's south pole -- which would have been a historic first, the AFP report adds. A ministerial investigation will now be opened into the causes of the crash.
Scientists believe the south pole region of the Moon, which is relatively unexplored, could hold important reserves of frozen water and precious elements. An Associated Press report said the permanently shadowed polar craters in the lunar south pole may contain frozen water in the rocks that future explorers could transform into air and rocket fuel.
The Luna-25 lander crash brings back memories of India’s 2019 Chandrayaan-2 mission which met with a similar fate. However, former Isro (Indian Space Research Organisation) head K Sivan told the Press Trust of India (PTI) on Monday that the failure of Russia's Luna-25 moon mission will have no impact on ISRO's Chandrayaan-3 lunar venture. "It does not have any impact," K Sivan, who was heading ISRO when the Chandrayaan-2 mission was launched in 2019, told PTI.
"It (Chandrayaan-3 mission) is going on as per plan. It (soft landing) will be done accordingly, Sivan said in the PTI report. "We are hoping that this time (unlike Chandrayaan-2) it (the touchdown) will be successful".
(With inputs from news agencies)