According to NASA, the Russian Luna-25 probe lost control and plummeted down last month, leaving a 33-foot-wide crater on the moon’s surface. NASA also released photos that appear to show the impact location.
According to Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, the Luna-25 probe crashed into the moon on August 19 as a result of a thruster firing gone wrong, which cut off communications and set the spacecraft on the incorrect orbital route, ending Russia’s first moon mission in 47 years.
Roscosmos provided an estimate of where the probe had struck, and last week NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) mission took pictures of what it called a “new crater” Moscow has established a panel to look into the precise causes of the Luna-25 crash.
The failure was a huge letdown for the Soviet space program, which was trying to step up its game in the wake of revived interest in the southern polar zone of the moon, where ice deposits may be present in craters that are constantly shaded. Future space missions might be able to create water, breathable air, and even hydrogen rocket fuel using ice.
Since the Luna-24 robot touched down on the moon in 1976, the Russians have had little success with their own space program. On Russia’s third successful robotic lunar sample return mission, it collected around six ounces of lunar soil and brought it back to Earth.
With the agency’s Apollo program fifty years ago, twelve NASA astronauts set foot on the moon, but no Soviet cosmonauts ever did. Both of Russia’s earlier post-Soviet deep space robotic missions, which were both aimed towards Mars, were unsuccessful.
As the United States, China, India, Japan, and the private sector all plan multiple moon trips that might serve as the cornerstones for lunar outposts and subsequently flights to Mars, Luna-25 was an effort to take up the slack and re-enter Russia into a new space race of sorts.
Just a few days after the Soviet probe crashed, India’s Chandrayaan-3 Vikram lunar lander achieved a historic touch-down close to the south pole of the moon. A lunar rover that had already returned data from soil samples had been delivered by it.