Russia successfully launched the Luna-25 lunar station early Friday, embarking on a historic mission to explore the south pole of the moon, the first in 50 years.
The station did not have a return capsule but was launched by a Soyuz-2.1b rocket with a Fregat upper stage from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in the Amur Oblast of Russia’s Far East, says the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Nine minutes after lift-off, the Fregat upper stage with the Luna-25 station separated from the third stage of the rocket.
About one hour later, Luna-25 separated from the Fregat upper stage and successfully entered the flight path to the moon, marking the successful completion of the first stage of its mission.
The mission consisted of four stages, while the second stage would be a flight to the moon, which will take about five days.
The trajectory would be adjusted twice: 1.5 days after the launch, and again one day before entering orbit around the moon.
The third stage would be orbiting the moon, where the station would fly around the moon in a circular polar orbit at an altitude of 100 km for three days.
The fourth stage will be the landing, when the station would transfer to an elliptical landing orbit with a minimum altitude of 18 km.
The Academy added that a soft landing in the area of the lunar South Pole was expected to occur.
According to the Academy, the landing is likely to happen on Aug. 21, when Luna-25 is expected to become the first station in history to land on the south pole of the moon, a region with complex terrain and potential resources.
The main objectives of the mission were to test the technologies of soft landing, study the internal structure and explore the resources of the lunar South Pole.