Luna-25, Russia’s first lunar lander in nearly 47 years, launched atop a Soyuz rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome on Friday. Russian space agency Roscosmos on Monday released the first images sent back by the spacecraft.
The last Moon mission from Russia was Luna-24, which was launched in 1976 when the country was part of the Soviet Union. The Luna-24 mission returned around 170 grams of lunar samples. Luna-25 took these new images on Sunday, August 13 and the space agency released them on Monday.
“These pictures show the structural elements of the « Luna-25 » apparatus against the background of the Earth, from which we have forever flown away, and against the background of the Moon, to which we will very soon fly. In the third picture you can see the emblem of the mission and the bucket of the onboard manipulator,” wrote Roscosmos in a statement.
— IE Science (@iexpressscience) August 15, 2023
The images were taken at a distance of about 310,000 kilometres away from the planet, according to a Telegram update by Roscosmos.
Despite launching nearly a month after Chandrayaan-3, the Russian lander could touch down on the Moon’s south pole before the Indian mission. Luna-25 will probably enter a lunar orbit on August 16 and attempt a soft landing on August 21 or 22. Chandrayaan-3 is set to soft-land on the Moon on August 23.
The Russian mission is taking a more direct trajectory towards the Moon because it carries a lighter payload and has more fuel storage. Luna-25’s lift-off mass is just 1,750 kilograms compared to the Chandrayaan-3 mission.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is making up for the lower fuel storage on the Chandrayaan-3 mission by following a more circuitous route that will take advantage of the gravities of the Earth and the Moon. After launching from the planet, it completed a series of manoeuvres that took it to higher and higher Earth orbits before inserting itself into a lunar orbit. From there, it is now doing the opposite–manoeuvres that lower its orbit till it reaches a 100-kilometre lunar orbit.