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Russia's first lunar mission in decades fails; leaves India's Chandrayaan-3 only spacecraft in the race to land on moon


A file photo.

MOSCOW (PTI): Russia's first lunar mission in nearly five decades, Luna-25, crashed into Moon a day after it had spun into uncontrolled orbit, the country's space agency said on Sunday, leaving India's Chandrayaan-3 mission's lander module the only spacecraft in the race to touch down on the lunar surface.

According to the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos', on August 19 an impulse was provided to propel Luna-25 into an elliptical pre-landing orbit. At about 11:57 GMT, communication with Luna-25 was lost, in a blow to Moscow's space ambitions.

The Russian spacecraft was aiming to be the first ever to make a soft landing on the lunar south pole, which has difficult terrain, on August 21. India's Chandrayaan-3 mission was launched on July 14 to be the first to reach the south pole.

"The apparatus moved into an unpredictable orbit and ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the surface of the moon," the Russian space agency said in a statement.

On August 11, a rocket carrying Luna-25, Russia's first lunar mission in 47 years, took off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia's Far East. Its predecessor, Luna-24, was launched by the Soviet Union in 1976.

The Russian lunar lander was set to enter lunar orbit on August 16 and softly touch down on the Moon's surface on August 21. The automatic station could have become the first mission to land on the Moon's south pole.

Luna-25 was part of Russia's lunar programme for the exploration and practical use of the Moon and its orbit to establish a fully automated lunar base.

The station was to study the internal structure of the Moon and explore natural resources, including water, and also study the impact of cosmic rays and electromagnetic radiation on the Moon's surface, Tass news agency reported.

According to the results of the preliminary analysis, due to the deviation of the actual parameters of the impulse from the calculated ones, the device switched to an off-design orbit and collided with the lunar surface, state-run Sputnik and Tass news agencies reported.

A specially formed commission will investigate the reasons for the loss of Luna-25.

The spacecraft had successfully entered the moon's orbit on Wednesday.

It was expected to make history by making a soft landing on Monday or Tuesday, just days before the touchdown of India's Chandrayaan-3 mission's lander module.

Meanwhile, the Indian space agency on Sunday said it has successfully reduced the orbit of the Chandrayaan-3 mission's lander module, and it is now expected to touch down on the surface of the Moon at 1804 hours on August 23.

It said the lander module would undergo internal checks ahead of the planned soft landing.

The lander module (LM), comprising the lander Vikram' and rover Pragyan', is expected to touch down on the lunar surface on August 23 at 18.04 hours, ISRO said.

According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), India's pursuit of space exploration will reach a remarkable milestone with the Chandrayaan-3 mission poised to achieve a soft landing on the surface of the Moon.

Chandrayaan-3 is a follow-on mission to Chandrayaan-2 and seeks to demonstrate end-to-end capability in safe landing and roving on the lunar surface.

The mission objectives of Chandrayaan-3 are to achieve safe and soft landing on the lunar surface, to demonstrate the rover's mobility on the Moon, and to conduct in-situ scientific experiments.

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