The mission's official aim is to search for frozen water near the moon's south pole. The launch of the Luna-25 spacecraft to the moon is Russia's first since 1976 when it was still a part of the Soviet Union and it is being carried out without the support of the European Space Agency, which cut ties with Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian lunar lander is scheduled to arrive on the moon on August 23rd, the same day as an Indian craft launched on July 14th.
Only the Soviet Union, the United States, and China have achieved successful moon landings. India and Russia hope to be the first to land on the moon's south pole.
Roscosmos, Russia's space agency, said it wants to show Russia “is a state capable of delivering a payload to the moon” and “ensure Russia’s guaranteed access to the moon’s surface.”
“Study of the moon is not the goal,” said Vitaly Egorov, a popular Russian space analyst. “The goal is political competition between two superpowers — China and the USA — and a number of other countries which also want to claim the title of space superpower.”
Sanctions put on Russia following its invasion of Ukraine make it more difficult for it to access Western technologies, affecting its space program and making it more challenging for Russia to access Western technologies. The Luna-25 was originally intended to carry a tiny moon rover, but that plan was scrapped to reduce the weight of the craft and enhance reliability, according to analysts.
The Luna-25 was launched from Russia's Far East's Vostochny Cosmodrome. The spaceport is a pet project of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and it is critical to his attempts to transform Russia into a space superpower and relocate Russian rockets from Kazakhstan's Baikonur Cosmodrome.
The Luna-25 is to take samples of moon rock and dust. The samples are crucial to understanding the moon's environment ahead of building a base there. "Otherwise, we could be building things and having to shut them down six months later because everything has effectively been sandblasted," said Ed Bloomer, an astronomer at Britain's Royal Observatory, Greenwich.