On Friday, Russia wants to start a moon mission for the first time in almost 50 years. The goal of the Luna 25 mission are long-term scientific investigations, the Russian space agency Roskosmos announced on Monday. It would be the first Russian lunar mission since 1976.
The launch of the Luna 25 lander will take place "on August 11 at 2:10 a.m. Moscow time" (1:10 a.m. CEST), Roskosmos said. A Soyuz launch vehicle will take Luna-25 to the moon. The landing vehicle should then touch down "on difficult terrain" near the south pole of the moon.
The Russian state news agency Tass quoted information from Roskosmos that the flight is expected to last between "four and a half and five and a half days". After landing, the nearly 800-kilogram Luna-25 will be tasked with "taking and analyzing soil samples and conducting long-term scientific research," according to the space agency. The mission should last at least a year.
The mission is the first of Russia's new lunar program. It comes at a time of tensions with Western space powers over Russia's military offensive in Ukraine. Therefore, Moscow wants to strengthen its space cooperation, especially with China.
After the start of the conflict in Ukraine, the European Space Agency ESA said it would not cooperate with Russia on the launch of Luna-25 or on future missions 26 and 27. Moscow then declared that it wanted to replace the ESA equipment for its lunar projects with equipment made in Russia.
The international competition for control and influence in space is in full swing. The USA and China are also currently stepping up their moon landing missions. So far, only the USA, Russia and China have landed on the moon.
The Soviet Union's last moon mission took place in 1976 with the Luna-24 spacecraft. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Moscow has been trying to drive innovation in space exploration. Russia's space programs are now not only in competition with other state actors, but also with private initiatives such as billionaire Elon Musk's space company SpaceX.