Russia is preparing to launch a politically motivated moon rocket in almost 50 years, according to The New York Post. The move will reportedly put it in competition with India, which is planning to land its lunar craft on the moon’s south pole on August 23, the same day and place as the Russians.
Launching Luna-25 comes 47 years after the Soviet Union’s “uncrewed landing” in 1976. The launch is being done without the assistance of the European Space Agency, which ended its cooperation with the country after it invaded Ukraine. The Russian space program has reportedly been affected by Western sanctions because it no longer has access to technology.
But Russian space agency Roscosmos said that the point of the launch is to demonstrate that Russia is capable of landing the probe on its own as well as ensure that the country has access.
While the Russians are looking for frozen water on the lunar surface, Russian space analyst Vitaly Egorov reportedly said that the goal is not to study the moon but to be politically competitive between two superpowers, the United States and China, as well as several other countries that are aiming to be a superpower through space exploration.
The south pole of the moon has never been used as a place for touchdown. Alexander Blokhin, a senior official at the space agency, said that until this time, every landing has been done at the moon’s equatorial zone.
The launch of the probe has so far been successful. It has entered the moon’s orbit and will circle it for five days before expecting to touch down as early as August 21.
The Soviet Union’s Luna-2 was the first object to touch the moon in September 1959. The U.S. followed with the first crewed landing in July 1969.