As humanity is looking eagerly towards our moon-ward bound cousins, Chandrayaan-3 and Luna-25, a question looms large, could Russia’s Luna-25 outpace the Indian mission, Chandrayaan-3?
The Start of the Lunar Race
On Friday, August 11, 2023, Russia plans to break its 47-year cessation from lunar landing missions with Luna-25, aspiring to land a full 12 days after the Chandrayaan-3’s anticipated landing. Luna-25 is heated up and ready at the Russian Far East’s Vostochny cosmodrome, less than a month after Chandrayaan-3 launched from Sriharikota’s Satish Dhawan Space Center.
The Russian Luna-25, vying with Chandrayaan-3, has its eyes set on the lunar south pole, an enviable location touted to contain substantial amounts of ice. This ice, if successfully harnessed, could be transformed into oxygen and fuel for future use.
Luna-25 is set to practice soft-landing, assess soil samples and conduct exhaustive scientific scrutiny. An interesting aspect of the Chandrayaan-3 mission, seen as India’s proud venture in space, is the orbiter, a lander and a rover carrying a plethora of scientific payloads.
It is noteworthy that Luna-25, at 1.8 tons, is Russia’s first lunar mission since 1976 and will be done without the assistance from the European Space Agency (ESA). As a result of Russia invading Ukraine, ESA terminated its collaboration with Roscosmos.
Luna-25 is armed with 31 kilograms of scientific equipment, even featuring instruments capable of penetrating up to 15 cm depth to test for potential water. While the mission initially aimed for a launch in October 2021, it suffered multiple setbacks. Now, the Luna-25 mission is set to sprint against its rival, Chandrayaan-3.
Interestingly, Chandrayaan-3 may take a slower but fuel-efficient route capitalizing on the Earth’s and the Moon’s gravity. On the other hand, Russia’s Luna-25 opts for a swifter course.
Interestingly, Russia is even ready to evacuate a village near the Luna-25 launch site, considering the minuscule chance of a rocket stage’s fall affecting the place.