Russia’s much-anticipated return to lunar exploration ended in disappointment as its Luna-25 spacecraft crashed into the Moon’s surface after losing control, according to officials from the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. This mission marked Russia’s re-entry into lunar exploration after an absence of nearly five decades.

The unmanned Luna-25 spacecraft was poised to make history as the first spacecraft to successfully land on the Moon’s south pole.

As Luna-25 attempted to transition into its pre-landing orbit, the spacecraft encountered a series of unexpected issues culminating in the loss of control. It led to the spacecraft’s uncontrolled descent.

One of the primary objectives of the Luna-25 mission was to explore a region of the Moon believed to hold frozen water and valuable elements.

Roscosmos reported the turn of events on 19 August afternoon when they lost contact with the spacecraft around 14:57 local time. The space agency confirmed that the spacecraft had entered an unpredictable orbit, ultimately resulting in its collision with the Moon’s surface.

Russia has initiated a special commission to investigate the factors leading to the mission’s failure. The crash marked a significant setback for Russia’s renewed lunar exploration efforts, especially as India’s Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft was poised to make its own attempt at landing on the Moon’s south pole.

Launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Amur region on 11 August, the Luna-25 mission had been anticipated as a historic endeavour that could reposition Russia as a formidable contender in the global space race. The spacecraft aimed to achieve a groundbreaking soft landing on the Moon’s surface, scheduled for Monday or Tuesday, just ahead of India’s Chandrayaan-3.

The south pole of the Moon, a region largely untouched by previous lunar missions, had captured the attention of both Russia and India due to its unique geological characteristics and potential resources. While both the U.S. and China have successfully executed soft landings on other areas of the Moon, the lunar south pole remains uncharted territory for humanity’s explorations.

Russia’s renewed interest in lunar exploration stems from the prolonged absence since its last Moon mission in 1976 under the Soviet Union, known as Luna-24.