Russia’s Luna-25 — an unmanned space mission to explore the ice-rich area at the moon’s south pole — has suddenly crashed.
On Sunday, Aug. 20, Russia’s state space corporation, Roskomos, lost all communications with the robotic mission to the moon after a thruster misfire, pushing the spacecraft into an “unpredictable orbit,” which then collided into the lunar surface, according to a statement posted on Telegram.
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The mission, expected to touch down on Aug. 21, was the country’s first lunar foray since 1976 — pushing the European power back into a global space race to explore the moon’s most coveted natural resources, which includes the moon’s south pole and any potential water ice that could be buried there. Roskomos previously stated that it saw the mission as a way to show that Russia “is a state capable of delivering a payload to the moon” and to ensure “Russia’s guaranteed access to the moon’s surface,” following its historic Luna-2 mission in 1959.
In July, India launched the Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft, which marks the country’s third successful lunar orbit and the closest a global power has gotten to reaching the moon’s south pole among the latest rush towards the cratered surface.
Hours after news of Luna-25’s mission failure, India announced Chandrayaan-3 was gearing up for landing on Aug. 23.
Space programs in China and the United States have announced similar lunar ambitions, with both countries gearing up to send manned missions to the ground of the icy regions of the moon. The potential of harvested moon ice could lead to vital sources of drinkable water, oxygen, and even fuel for rockets — extending the reach of future space missions. But lunar attempts such as these are notoriously difficult due to limited fuel, lack of GPS navigation, and the lack of an atmosphere to slow crafts down. India’s previous attempt (Chandrayaan-2) ended in a similar software-induced crash.
In the latest iteration of the race to space, as the European giant once again faces economic and militaristic fallout, Russia appears to be out.