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Luna 25: Russia Seeks to Reclaim Soviet-Era Lunar Glory

Final preparations are under way ahead of the launch of the lunar landing spacecraft Luna 25

Roscosmos

Russia is on the verge of launching their first moon mission in nearly five decades. The mission holds great significance for the Russian space industry, which has been in decline for many years. It is also seen as a part of Russia’s endeavor to regain its former power and prestige on the global stage, similar to its position during the Soviet Union era.

The Luna 25 mission is set to launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome on August 11. It comprises of a lander equipped with scientific instruments primarily designed for the study of moon dust composition and properties. The goal is for the lander to touch down approximately 11 days after launch.

The mission’s name directly pays homage to the Soviet Union’s space missions, particularly Luna 24, which took place in 1976. While Luna 25 shares many similarities with its predecessor, there is a key difference in landing location. Instead of landing in the moon’s equatorial region like previous Luna missions, Luna 25 aims to touch down near the south pole, an area of great interest for future human exploration due to the presence of water reservoirs.

Following Luna 24, the flourishing Soviet space industry gradually declined along with the conclusion of the Cold War’s space race. The disintegration of the Soviet Union 32 years ago forced Russia to establish a new space agency called Roscosmos. However, Roscosmos has faced numerous challenges including political instability and funding issues. Furthermore, with the entry of new players in space exploration over the past few decades, Russia no longer holds the advantage it once had during the Soviet era.

“It appears to be a case of ‘Make Russia Great Again’. It’s about reclaiming the territory that the Soviet Union once possessed and striving for its former glory,” says Andrew Jenks, a historian at California State University, Long Beach. “There’s a lot at stake with this launch in terms of Russia demonstrating its international competitiveness in an area where it formerly excelled.”

The Soviet and Russian space programs have experienced a series of high-profile failures since the 1970s. These include rocket explosions, a space shuttle that only launched once, and a failed Mars mission that did not surpass Earth’s orbit.

These setbacks have caused many within the space industry to be skeptical about Luna 25’s chances of success. “I hope they succeed, but if you were a betting person, failure would be the more likely outcome based on the continuous string of failures in the space program,” remarks Jenks.

If Luna 25 does succeed, it will be a major milestone for Russia and could pave the way for a future collaboration with China in establishing a permanent moon base. Additionally, it has the potential to revitalize Russia’s struggling space sector, which has been impacted by brain drain and a loss of international partnerships due to the conflict in Ukraine.

“I believe this would be a significant morale boost for the thousands of individuals involved in Russian space science,” states Jenks. “However, morale alone cannot sustain a space program. I don’t see how one successful mission can reverse the current state of an infrastructure for space technology production that is clearly faltering.”

Roscosmos was contacted for comment regarding the Luna 25 launch.

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