WASHINGTON — Russia’s first lunar mission in nearly half a century suffered an “emergency situation” during an attempted maneuver Aug. 19, putting plans for a landing into question.
In a brief statement posted to its channel on the social media service Telegram, the Russian space agency Roscosmos said that the Luna-25 spacecraft was commanded to perform a maneuver at 7:10 a.m. Eastern to place the spacecraft into a “pre-landing” orbit around the moon.
However, during the planned maneuver “an emergency situation occurred on board the automatic station, which did not allow the maneuver to be performed with the specified parameters,” according to a translation of the statement. “The management team is currently analyzing the situation.”
Roscosmos did not disclose additional details about the problem or the maneuver the spacecraft was performing. It was not clear if the incident would affect plans for a landing by Luna-25, which was slated for Aug. 21.
Roscosmos launched the long-delayed Luna-25 spacecraft on a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far East Aug. 10. The spacecraft performed a maneuver Aug. 16 to go into orbit around the moon that Roscosmos said was successful, although the agency did not disclose the parameters of that orbit.
Luna-25 is Russia’s first mission to the moon since the Luna-24 sample return mission in 1976. The lander, weighing an estimated 1,750 kilograms at launch, carries a package of Russian scientific instruments weighing 30 kilograms. The targeted landing site is near the Boguslawsky crater at approximately 70 degrees south latitude in the south polar region of the moon.
Development of Luna-25 suffered years of delays because of technical issues and constrained resources. The mission also lost a partnership with the European Space Agency, which planned to test a navigation camera system on the lander, after ESA severed ties with Roscosmos in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year.
Luna-25 is one of two missions preparing for landings on the moon this month. India’s Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft, launched July 14, entered lunar orbit Aug. 5. It is gearing up for a landing attempt, also in the south polar region of the moon, Aug. 23.
A third lunar lander, the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) by Japan’s space agency JAXA, is scheduled for launch Aug. 25 along with the XRISM X-ray astronomy observatory on an H-2A rocket. SLIM, intended to demonstrate precision landing technologies, will attempt a landing four to six months after launch near Shioli crater at 13 degrees south latitude on the moon.