Russia seeks to restore prestige in race to Moon’s south pole

Russia seeks to restore prestige in race to Moon’s south pole

A success could signal Moscow’s ability to overcome sanctions and demonstrate its technological prowess, but the challenges are daunting.

Russia’s launch of its first lunar lander in nearly 50 years on Friday, a attempt to become the first country to reach the south pole of the Moon It is a symbolic moment for a country eager to show that it still has the technological capabilities of a great world power.

The difficulties are manifold, from executing a successful launch to landing a probe on the pole’s rugged terrain on August 21. Western sanctions stemming from its war in Ukraine mean that Moscow has fewer staff than it could have had in the past . Russian scientists are also competing with a similar mission from India and are hoping to land their own probe first. “We will now wait for the 21st,” Yury Borisov, head of the Roscosmos space agency, told workers at the Vostochny cosmodrome after the launch, Russian news agency Interfax reported. I hope there’s a landing very precise smooth on the Moon.

In addition to enhancing Russia’s prestige, a first landing at the pole could be a valuable step forward for broaden the understanding of scientists to know if there could be enough ice cream there to provide fuel, oxygen and clean water to support potential human settlements in the future.

The Soyuz-2.1b rocket with the Luna-25 automatic station is transported to a launch pad at the Vostochny cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East on August 8, 2023. Photo: AP

Launched from the Vostochny cosmodrome, some 5,550 kilometers from Moscow in Russia’s far east, the Luna-25 lander marks the country’s first mission to the Moon since 1976 and bills itself as a new wave of countries are expanding their footprint in space.

Chandrayaan-3 should also from India , a spacecraft with an orbiter, lander and rover, lands at the lunar south pole later this month. In May, China sent its first civilian astronaut into orbit as part of a new crew for its space station.

NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, is planning a manned spaceflight around the Moon at the end of 2024 on a mission that would take people to deep space for the first time in decades and set the stage for a landing the agency wanted with US spacecraft maker SpaceX in 2025.

The risks of the Luna-25 mission are particularly high for Russia and President Vladimir Putin. The penalties imposed by the the war in Ukraine ended much of their collaboration with the United States and European nations, preventing several missions and bringing Russia closer to China as Beijing expands its own space ambitions.

“It is likely that we are now witnessing the final chapter of meaningful cooperation between the United States and the Russian Federation in space,” said Benjamin L. Schmitt, senior researcher in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pennsylvania, in written comments.

“Sentiment in the science and astronaut communities has begun to shift toward realizing a future in which NASA and Roscosmos are no longer are not close associates due to the horrific acts of the Putin regime in the hybrid threats of Ukraine and Russia against global democracies in general,” he said.

In this photo released by Roscosmos State Space Corporation, the Soyuz-2.1b rocket with the Luna-25 automatic station is seen at the Vostochny cosmodrome. Photo: AP

NASA and Roscosmos continued to work together on crewed launches and International Space Station operations.

India and more than two dozen others countries have accepted the principles endorsed by the United States for space exploration, while Russia is collaborating with China on the International Lunar Research Station which plans to host a base on the Moon by 2036. Since 2011, US law has prohibited China from working with NASA.

Aware of Russia’s pride in its history of Soviet-era space exploration, Putin insisted that Moscow will continue to develop its lunar program despite Western sanctions.

“We are guided by the aspirations of our ancestors to continue despite the difficulties and outside attempts to impede our progress” he said during a visit to the Vostochny Cosmodrome shortly after last year’s invasion.

Roscosmos said the four-legged 800-kilogram Luna-25 should collect readings on the lunar surface for a year. According to Roscosmos, it is equipped with a lunar robotic arm 1.6 meters long, to stir and collect surface deposits, and various scientific instruments, in particular for the study of the plasma and dust components of the polar exosphere. lunar.

“The South Pole is strategic because of its wealth water ice resources and its long-term potential as a site for mining, industry and settlements,” Namrata Goswami, an independent space policy expert, said in an email.

Specialists take part in pre-launch preparations for the Luna-25 mission to search for ice near the south pole of the Moon, at the Vostochny cosmodrome. Photo: Reuters

A successful mission “would demonstrate that the The Russian space effort remains an important capability for the country,” he added. “This is the message that Putin will have sent to the rest of the world. This is an important signal not only for the West but also for China,” which the Kremlin is courting to join future space missions.

A positive outcome is also important for Russia to dispel doubts about its military superiority over Ukraine after numerous battlefield setbacks. technical and strategic flaws exposed according to analysts covering the space industry’s role in Russian politics.

In recent years, launch failures, construction accidents, corruption scandals and expertise shortages have worsened what observers called a crisis deepening of the Russian space industry. Western sanctions, including technology export controls and restrictions aimed at downgrading Russia’s aerospace and space sectors, have exacerbated the challenges for Russia’s space program.

“At the very least, a successful Luna-25 mission could give Putin’s regime the opportunity to participate in its usual propaganda aimed at minimizing the effect Sanctions in its high-tech aerospace sector,” said Schmitt, co-founder of Duke University’s Space Diplomacy Lab. “Conversely, the failure of a large-scale mission might suggest that technology export controls might be having the desired impact.”

Pavel Luzin, a nonresident senior fellow at the Washington-based Center for European Policy Analysis, a public policy institution that focuses in particular on Russia’s space policy, noted that it would be impossible for Russia to develop its space capabilities “when you isolate yourself from other countries and people around the world because of your aggressive and criminal behavior.”

Display of rockets at the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities pavilion at the Army 2021 exhibition in Moscow on August 22, 2021.

Russian probes Luna-25, Luna-26 and Luna-27 rely on European electronics and equipment said Luzin, adding that “even if Russia had bought all the necessary things years before 2022, it would be difficult for Roscosmos to use them without associative links ”.

mission to the south pole Luna is exceptionally tough . Russian space engineers have never carried out such a mission. Vostochny Cosmodrome it had never hosted a comparable launch. Local authorities ordered nearby villagers to evacuate to avoid the risk of being hit by rocket propellants when they separate from the main vehicle.

The rugged lunar terrain too complicates the prospects for a successful landing. Since the end of the Cold War, India, Israel and Japan have unsuccessfully attempted to land on the lunar south pole, “showing how difficult it is even for advanced nations with space capabilities”, said Goswami.

Roscosmos officials have acknowledged the dangers of the mission, with agency chief Yuri Borisov telling Putin in June that “such missions are always risky.” He calculated the probability of success at 70%.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson told reporters on Tuesday that the US agency wish the Russians good luck for their Luna-25 mission, but it threw cold water on any future Russian attempts to send cosmonauts to the Moon anytime soon.

“I think the space race is really between us and China,” he said.

Expedition 64 International Space Station (ISS) crew members at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, outside Moscow. Photo: AP

Yet the enthusiasm in Russia has been building for days . Many people are proud to be the first nation to send a human being into space. Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who surprised Americans by circling the Earth in 1961, remains a national hero whose story is taught to Russian schoolchildren.

State media released detailed records of the lunar lander and TV commentators They praised Russia’s competence in the space field. The event is expected to receive extensive live coverage.

However, the risks if something goes wrong are high.

Goswami, the space analyst, said: “It’s Russia’s game to lose.”

Source: Latercera

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