London, 9 August 2023.- Russia will launch its first lunar landing spacecraft in 47 years on Friday, in a race with India to the south pole of the moon, reports Reuters. The launch from the Vostochny cosmodrome, east of Moscow, will take place four weeks after India sent up its Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander, due to touch down at the pole on the 23rd of August.
The south pole is a key destination because scientists believe it may hold significant quantities of ice that could be used to extract fuel and oxygen, as well as drinking water. The Russian space agency Roscosmos said that its Luna-25 spacecraft would take five days to fly to the moon and spend five to seven days in lunar orbit before descending to one of three possible landing sites. Luna-25 is planned to land on the moon for a year. It will have a mass of 1.8 tons and will carry 31 kg of scientific equipment. Luna-25 will use a scoop to take rock samples from a depth of up to 15 cm to test for the presence of frozen water that could support human life.
“The moon is the seventh continent of the Earth so we are simply ‘condemned’, as it were, to tame it,” said Lev Zeleny, a space researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences. The launch was initially planned for October 2021, and has been delayed for nearly two years. ESA had planned to test its Pilot-D navigation camera by attaching it to Luna-25, but broke off its ties to the project after Russia invaded Ukraine in February last year. Residents of a village in Russia’s far east will be evacuated from their homes at 7:30 a.m. on Friday because of a ‘one in a million chance’ that one of the rocket stages that launches Luna-25 could fall to Earth there. The residents will be taken somewhere to watch the launch and receive a free breakfast.