Russia is set to launch its first spacecraft destined for the Moon on Friday, marking a 47-year milestone, and entering the race with India to explore the Moon’s southern pole as a potential source of water to support future human presence.
The launch from the Vostochny Cosmodrome, situated 5,550 kilometers away from Moscow in the Far East, comes just four weeks after India sent its lunar lander, Chandrayaan-3, which is scheduled to land on the Moon’s pole on August 23.
The rough terrain poses challenges for landing, but the southern pole is a coveted destination as scientists believe it may contain significant amounts of ice that could be used for extracting fuel, oxygen, and drinking water.
Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, stated that its Luna-25 spacecraft will take five days to reach the Moon, spending five to seven days in lunar orbit before descending to one of the three potential landing sites.
Roscosmos also assures that the two missions, Indian and Russian, will not interfere with each other as they have planned different landing areas.
“There is no danger of interference or collision. There is plenty of space on the Moon for everyone,” according to a statement reported by Reuters.
The Indian mission is set to conduct experiments for two weeks, while Luna-25 will operate on the Moon for one year.
With a mass of 1.8 tons and 31 kilograms of special testing equipment, Luna-25 will use a scoop to collect rock samples from depths of up to 15 centimeters to test for the presence of frozen water that can support human life.
“Moon is Earth’s seventh continent, and we are destined to tame it,” said Lev Zeleni, a space researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Residents of villages in Russia’s Far East will be evacuated from their homes due to a one-in-a-million chance of rocket stages launching Luna-25 falling there, as informed by local authorities.
Twenty-six residents of Shahtinsky will be taken to a location where they can witness the launch, receive a complimentary breakfast, and return home within three and a half hours.
Fishermen and hunters in the region have also been cautioned.