Russia launched its first robotic mission to the moon in nearly 50 years on Friday with the aim of revitalizing its space program, which has been suffering in recent years and isolated by the conflict in Ukraine.
The launch of the Luna-25 lander is Russia’s first mission to the moon since 1976, an era when the former Soviet Union was at the forefront of conquering space.
But since the fall of the Soviet Union, Moscow has faced a series of hardships such as funding shortages and corruption scandals.
The Soyuz rocket, which carries this probe with about 800 kilograms, took off from the Vostochny cosmodrome, in the Far East, at 02:10 in Moscow (23:10 on Thursday), according to images broadcast live by the Roscosmos space agency.
The plane soared, leaving behind a thick cloud of smoke and flames that popped into the gray sky.
It is expected that the device will reach orbit around the moon within five days, as it will take between three and seven days to choose a good place to land the moon in the south pole region of the satellite.
“The spacecraft is scheduled to enter lunar orbit (…) on August 16, with a landing on the surface of the Earth’s natural satellite on August 21 north of the Boguslavsky crater,” Roscosmos specified in a statement, the moon’s south pole.
Alexander Plugin, a senior official of Roskosmos, said in an interview with the official newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
The Russian Space Agency plans a one-year mission to collect soil samples and analyzes for “long-term scientific research.”
– ‘The ambition of our ancestors’ –
This launch comes in the context of isolation from the Russian programme, as Roscosmos has been rejected by Western powers.
In line with its diplomatic strategy, Russia is seeking to develop space cooperation with China.
Independent Russian analyst Vitaly Egorov claimed that this mission is a test for the Russian space programme. “The most important question is, can you land on the moon?” he asked.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to continue the space program despite the sanctions, citing as an example the time the Soviet Union sent its first man into space in 1961 amid tensions with the West.
“We are guided by the ambition of our ancestors to move forward despite the difficulties and attempts that hold us back,” he said on a visit to Vostochny last year.
– ‘Risky’ mission –
Roskosmos director Yuri Borisov admitted in June that the mission was “risky”. “In the world, the probability of success of this type of mission is estimated at 70%,” he said at a meeting with Putin.
The regional governor, Mikhail Degtyarov, announced on Telegram that the first floor of the Soyuz launcher fell 28 km from the town of Shakhtinsky, in the Khabarovsk region.
The authorities evacuated the residents an hour before the shooting, although they were able to return to their homes a few hours later.
The last Soviet mission to the Moon in 1976, Luna-24, returned soil samples from the satellite to Earth.
The space sector is a source of pride for Russia, as the Soviets launched the first artificial satellite into orbit, Sputnik, put the first animal into orbit with the mission of the dog Laika, and then sent the first human into space, the cosmonaut. Yuri Gagarin.
However, the United States won the space race when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969.
Russia’s space programme, which relies heavily on Soviet technologies, has struggled to innovate and is underfunded as Moscow prioritizes military spending.
In addition, it has been marred by corruption scandals and launch failures, and has had to face increasing competition from the United States, China, and private companies such as SpaceX, from billionaire Elon Musk.
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