Russia’s first moon mission in 47 years, unmanned Luna-25 spacecraft spun out of control and crashed into the moon.
Russia state space corporation Roscosmos said it entered lunar orbit last Wednesday and was supposed to land as early as Monday. At 2:10 p.m. on Saturday afternoon Moscow time, the spacecraft fired its engine to enter an orbit that would set it up for a lunar landing, but an unexplained “emergency situation” occurred.
Preliminary findings showed that the 800kg lander had “ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the surface of the Moon”, a special commission would look into why the mission failed.
Russia was racing to the Moon’s south pole against India, whose Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft is scheduled to land there in the coming days and send a rover to explore the rocks and craters, gathering data and images to send back to Earth.
Parts of the Moon’s south pole remain permanently in shadow, which makes finding water a possibility.
A spokesperson for the Indian space agency Isro described the Luna-25 crash as “unfortunate”.
“Every space mission is very risky and highly technical. It’s unfortunate that Luna-25 has crashed.”
No country has ever landed on the Moon’s south pole before, although both the US and China have landed softly on the Moon’s surface.
Russian scientists have repeatedly complained that the space programme has been weakened by poor managers who are keen for unrealistic vanity space projects, corruption and a decline in the rigour of Russia’s post-Soviet scientific education system.