After several delays, Russia said on Monday that it will launch a lunar lander this week in an effort to make its first trip back to the Moon in almost fifty years.
The launch, which is set for early Friday, comes as Russia’s offensive in Ukraine enters its second year and causes extremely high tensions with the West.
Moscow is eager to relaunch and expand on an innovative lunar program from the Soviet period with the Luna-25 lander, the country’s first since 1976.
According to the Russian space agency, a Soyuz rocket had been prepared for the Luna-25 launch at the Vostochny cosmodrome in the Russian Far East. Roscosmos announced in a statement, “The launch is on August 11.
The statement said, “The Luna-25 will have to practice soft landings, collect and analyze soil samples, and carry out long-term scientific research.” It is anticipated that the 800 kilogram, four-legged lander will arrive close to the lunar south pole. In contrast, landings on the Moon often take place close to the equator.
The launch, which is the first mission of Moscow’s new lunar program, takes place as Russia seeks to increase its space collaboration with China in the wake of strained relations with the West.
The European Space Agency (ESA) declared it will not work with Moscow on the upcoming Luna-25 launch as well as the scheduled 26 and 27 missions after President Vladimir Putin committed troops to Ukraine last year.
Moscow declared at the time that it would still move forward with its lunar objectives despite the withdrawal and swap out ESA equipment for Russian-made research gear.
Putin said in a speech last year at the Vostochny Cosmodrome that the Soviet Union launched the first man into space in 1961 despite “total” sanctions. He stressed that, despite current Western restrictions, Moscow would advance its lunar program.
At the time, Putin stated, “We are motivated by the will of our forefathers to advance, despite any challenges and any attempts to stop us in this march from without.