Russia’s first lunar mission in 47 years ends in failure as spacecraft collides with Moon

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Russia’s inaugural lunar mission in 47 years ended in failure as the Luna-25 spacecraft veered out of control and collided with the moon. This mishap, attributed to complications during pre-landing orbit preparations, highlights the waning influence of Russia’s once-potent space program in the post-Soviet era.

The state-run Russian space agency, Roskosmos, reported that contact with the spacecraft was lost at 11:57 GMT on Saturday, due to issues arising as it was maneuvered into a pre-landing orbit. The original plan had been for a gentle touchdown on the moon’s surface, scheduled for Monday.

In an official statement, Roskosmos revealed that the craft entered an unforeseen orbit and met its end through impact with the moon’s surface. An investigative inter-departmental committee has been established to probe the factors leading to the Luna-25’s loss. The mission of this craft had reignited hopes in Moscow of Russia’s resurgence in the high-stakes moon race among major world powers.

This setback highlighted the decline of Russia’s space prowess since the era of intense Cold War rivalry, marked by Moscow’s landmark launch of the Earth’s first satellite, Sputnik 1, in 1957, and the momentous journey of Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin into space in 1961. The failure coincided with a period of significant challenges for Russia’s $2 trillion economy, including the weight of Western sanctions and engagement in one of Europe’s largest land conflicts since World War Two.

While lunar missions are exceptionally complex endeavors, with numerous past US and Soviet efforts meeting failure, Russia had not undertaken such an expedition since Luna-24 in 1976, during the leadership of Communist figurehead Leonid Brezhnev.

The Russian state television’s coverage of the Luna-25’s loss illustrated its relatively limited significance on the news agenda. The incident was ranked eighth in the news lineup, with only 26 seconds of coverage, following reports about fires in Tenerife and a four-minute segment on a professional holiday for Russian pilots and crews.