Russia will aim to launch its Luna-25 lunar lander later this week as it attemps to return to the Moon for the first time in almost 50 years.
Russia's space agency Roscosmos said on Monday that it had scheduled the launch of the Luna-25 lander for the early hours of Friday. With the lunar mission, which is Russia's first since 1976, Moscow is seeking to restart and build on the Soviet Union's pioneering space programme, an AFP report said.
According to US space agency Nasa, the lander, which is also known by its alternate names Luna-Glob-Lander and Luna-Glob-1, is targeted to the south polar region of the Moon, the same region which is of focus for India's ongoing Chandrayaan-3 lunar mission, which was launched on 14 July. There are two primary scientific objectives of the Luna 25 mission: to study the composition of the polar regolith, and to study the plasma and dust components of the lunar polar exosphere.
The lander has a four-legged base containing the landing rockets and propellant tanks, an upper compartment holds the solar panels, communication equipment, on-board computers, and most of the science apparatus, the Nasa website explains. There are a total of 8 science instruments on board the lander.
According to the AFP report, engineers have assembled a Soyuz rocket at the Vostochny cosmodrome in the Russian Far East for the launch of the lander, Roscosmos said in a statement. "The Luna-25 will have to practise soft landing, take and analyse soil samples and conduct long-term scientific research," the Roscosmos statement added.
The Luna-25 mission comes at a crucial time for Russia. After Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine last year, the European Space Agency (ESA) said it would not cooperate with Moscow on the upcoming Luna-25 launch as well as future 26 and 27 missions, the AFP report explains. Despite the pullout, Moscow said it would go ahead with its lunar plans and replace ESA equipment with Russian-made scientific instruments, the report further explains. Speaking at the Vostochny cosmodrome last year, Putin had said the Soviet Union put the first man into space in 1961 despite "total" sanctions.
The AFP report added: the Kremlin chief insisted Moscow would similarly continue to develop its lunar programme despite current Western sanctions in response to the assault in Ukraine.
(With inputs from agencies)