Russia launches lunar lander in race to find water on moon


The Russian lunar mission, the first since 1976, is racing against India and more broadly with the United States and China.

create 2023-08-11 update 2024-02-06


For centuries, astronomers have wondered about water on the moon, which is 100 times drier than the Sahara. NASA maps in 2018 showed water ice in shadowed parts of the moon, and in 2020 NASA confirmed water also existed in sunlit areas.

Major powers such as the United States, China, India, Japan and the European Union have all been probing the moon in recent years. A Japanese lunar landing failed last year and an Israeli mission failed in 2019.

No country has made a soft landing on the south pole. An Indian mission, Chandrayaan-2, failed in 2019.

Rough terrain makes a landing there difficult, but the prize of discovering water ice could be historic: large could be used to extract fuel and oxygen, as well as be used for drinking water.

Borisov said at least three other lunar missions were planned over the next seven years, and that after that Russia and China would work on a possible crewed lunar mission.

“My colleagues and I from China will move on to the next phase – the possibility of a manned mission to the Moon and the construction of a lunar base,” he said.

Maxim Litvak, head of the planning group for the Luna-25 scientific equipment, said the most important task was to land where no one else had landed – and to find water.

“There are signs of ice in the soil of the Luna-25 landing area,” he said, adding that Luna-25 would work on the moon for at least an earth year, taking samples.

Roscosmos said that it would take five days to fly to the moon. The craft will spend 5-7 days in lunar orbit before descending to one of three possible landing sites near the pole – a timetable that implies it could match or narrowly beat its Indian rival to the moon’s surface.

Chandrayaan-3 is due to run experiments for two weeks.

With a mass of 1.8 tons and carrying 31 kg (68 pounds) of scientific equipment, Luna-25 will use a scoop to take rock samples from a depth of up to 15 cm (6 inches) to test for the presence of frozen water.”

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