Russia Heads to the Moon for the First Time in Nearly 50 Years

( – On Aug. 11, Russia launched the Luna-25 probe, its first lunar mission since 1976. The mission is the first of Russia’s new lunar program and the first time Russia has put a device into space since it was part of the Soviet Union.

When filled with fuel the Luna-25 probe weighs 3,858 pounds. It is 10.4 feet tall. It was initially meant to carry a small space rover however, that made the Luna-25 probe too heavy.

The unmanned space station, which was launched by the state-owned Roscosmos space agency, will reach orbit five days after the launch. Between Aug. 21 and Aug. 23, the Luna-25 probe is expected to land on the moon’s south pole where it will study the frozen water that is present at the moon’s poles.

According to the Roscosmos space agency, the Luna-25 probe is expected to stay on the moon for one year. It will take samples of moon dust and rocks, analyze “the soil” and conduct “long-term scientific research.

Some scientists believe the permanently shadowed polar craters at the lunar south pole could contain water.

According to analysts, the main objective of the Luna-25 probe is to land on the moon in order to get back “lost Soviet expertise” as well as “learn how to perform this task in a new era.”

Russia’s first launch in 50 years, the Luna-25 probe puts Russia in a race with India which launched a probe on July 13 that is also expected to land at the moon’s south pole on Aug. 23. In 2019, India’s lander crashed into the surface of the moon after attempting to land at the moon’s south pole.

No spacecraft has ever landed smoothly at the lunar south pole. While only the United States, China, and the Soviet Union have had successful moon landings, moon-related missions have been launched by South Korea, Japan, India, Israel as well as the European Union.

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