NASA’s lunar orbiter captures image of Russian spacecraft crash site

NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has located what’s believed to be the crash site of Russia’s failed Luna-25 mission.

Russia was hoping to become the first nation to perform a successful soft landing near the moon’s South Pole with its uncrewed Luna-25 spacecraft, but the mission failed in the final moments, causing the vehicle to slam into the ground at high speed.

Following the crash, NASA’s Russian counterpart, Roscosmos, shared an estimate of the impact point. The LRO team used the data to design a set of search commands for its orbiter, which then located and photographed the point of interest.

The LRO team compared the new images with others taken before the impact and immediately they spotted a new crater.

The likely impact site of the Luna-25 spacecraft.
The likely impact site of the Luna-25 spacecraft. NASA
An image of the crash site taken prior to the impact.
An image of the crash site taken prior to the impact. NASA

Since the new crater is close to the Luna 25 estimated impact point, the LRO team believes it’s most likely to have been caused by the Luna-25 mission rather than by an asteroid or meteorite.

After examining the latest data, NASA said the new crater appears to be around 10 meters in diameter, adding that the impact point was on the steep inner rim of the moon’s Pontécoulant G crater, about 248 miles (400 kilometers) short of Luna 25’s intended landing point.

The LRO, which has been orbiting our nearest neighbor for the last 14 years, recently located the crash site of another spacecraft. Similar to Russia’s doomed mission, Japan’s uncrewed ispace mission failed in the final moments before touchdown in April, causing it to impact the lunar surface at high speed.

While landing safely on the moon is clearly a challenging process, India achieved a historic landing just last week when it became the first nation land safely near the lunar South Pole, and only the fourth country to perform a successful soft landing on the moon. The uncrewed Chandrayaan-3 mission includes a small rover called Pragyan that will use various scientific instruments to explore its surroundings before sending its discoveries back to scientists.

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