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HomescienceThe Russian lunar rover has begun processing the first data

The Russian lunar rover has begun processing the first data

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By Jay Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia on Sunday switched on the scientific instruments aboard the lunar lander and scientists began processing its first data as the spacecraft blasted toward the moon in a bid to be the first to find ice on Earth’s only natural satellite.

Russia’s Luna-25 mission, the first since 1976, is racing against India, which launched its Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander last month, to complete a soft landing on the moon’s south pole where scientists believe there are pockets of water ice.

A Soyuz 2.1 rocket carrying the Luna-25 spacecraft lifted off from the Vostochny cosmodrome in far eastern Russia at 2:11 a.m. Friday Moscow time and launched out of Earth’s orbit an hour later.

The Russian space agency said that as it hurtled towards the moon, which is 384,400 kilometers (238,855 miles) from our planet, scientific instruments were turned on with the first data measured for the trip.

“The first measurement data for the flight to the moon were obtained, and the scientific team of the project began to process them,” said Roscosmos.

“Luna-25 continues its journey to the natural satellite of the Earth – all automatic station systems are working properly, communication with it is stable, and the energy balance is positive,” she said.

Luna-25, about the size of a small car, is intended for a year’s work on the moon’s south pole, where in recent years scientists at NASA and other space agencies have discovered traces of water ice in shadowed craters in the area.

There’s a lot riding on Russia’s Luna-25 mission: If it succeeds, Russia will likely say it shows the West’s sanctions over the Ukraine war can’t stop Russia from backing down.

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But failure will once again raise questions about Russia’s space ambitions after decades of great-power space competition with the United States during the Cold War.

American astronaut Neil Armstrong gained fame in 1969 for being the first person to walk on the moon, but the Soviet Union’s Luna-2 mission was the first spacecraft to reach the lunar surface in 1959, and the Luna-9 mission in 1966 was the first. to make a soft landing there.

After the United States won the battle to put a man on the moon, Moscow then focused on exploring Mars, and since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has not sent scientific investigations beyond Earth’s orbit.

Russia said on Friday that it would launch more lunar missions and then explore the possibility of a joint manned Russian-Chinese mission and even a lunar base.

(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Jay Faulconbridge and Russell)

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