Russian Luna 25 Impact Crater Seen by NASA’s Lunar Orbiter

A new crater on the Moon’s surface was photographed by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft, which most likely represents the impact location of Russia’s Luna 25 mission.

Luna 25 encountered a problem during its descent, which led to its collision with the Moon’s surface on August 19.

The Russian space agency Roscosmos released a prediction of the impact point on August 21. On August 22, the LRO Mission Operations team and the LROC (short for LRO Camera) team were able to create and send instructions to the LRO spacecraft to take pictures of the location. The sequence was started on August 24 at 2:15 p.m. EDT (18:15 UTC) and ended at 6:12 p.m. EDT (22:12 UTC) almost four hours later. The LROC team discovered a small fresh crater by comparing image sequences taken before and after the impact time.

The crater formed after the date of the LRO’s most recent “before” photograph of the region, which was taken in June 2022 (frame No. M1410024427R). The LRO crew comes to the conclusion that this new crater is most likely from Luna 25 rather than a natural impactor because it is near to the mission’s anticipated impact position.

The new crater has a diameter of roughly 10 metres and is situated at a height of roughly minus 360 metres at 57.865 degrees south latitude and 61.360 degrees east longitude. The impact spot was 400 metres inside the Pontécoulant G crater’s steep (more than 20-degree gradient) inner wall.

Russian lunar lander mission Luna 25—also known as the Luna-Glob-Lander—launched on August 10, 2023. It was intended for the Moon’s southern polar area. The mission’s two main scientific goals are to investigate the polar regolith’s composition and the plasma and dust elements of the lunar polar exosphere. On August 19, communications were lost, and the lander is said to have crashed on the ground.

On August 10, 2023, at 23:10 UTC (7:10 p.m. EDT, 2:10 a.m. Moscow Time), Luna 25 lifted off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. Soyuz-2 Fregat was used for the launch into Earth orbit. The Fregat upper stage was then blasted once more in order to enter a lunar transfer orbit. It arrived at the Moon on August 16 at 8:57 UT and started its engines to enter lunar orbit. It started its engines on August 19 at 11:10 UT to enter its pre-landing orbit, but communications were lost at 11:57 UT. A crater on the inner rim of Pontécoulant G crater, which is thought to represent the crash site, has been located at 57.865 degrees south latitude and 61.360 degrees east longitude.

Robotic spacecraft called the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) from NASA orbits the Moon. The primary goal of the LRO, which was sent into orbit on June 18, 2009, is to map the lunar surface in great detail and to give a complete set of data that can help with the design of future lunar missions. The LRO has the following salient features:

Map-making and Surface Analysis: The Moon’s surface has been mapped in great detail thanks to the LRO. It has located prospective resources on the Moon, found safe landing sites, and examined the radiation environment on the Moon.

The LRO is equipped with a variety of instruments, each of which is made for a particular purpose. These include the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) to take detailed pictures of the lunar surface, the Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter (LOLA) to map the topography of the Moon, as well as additional equipment for radiation measurement, thermal mapping, and more.

Lunar Water and Ice: Among its many discoveries, LRO has offered information that may point to the existence of water ice at the Moon’s poles, particularly in areas that are always under shadow. This has ramifications for possible in-situ resource utilisation and future lunar exploration.

The LRO’s original mission was intended to last for around a year after launch, however due to its effectiveness, several mission extensions were made. It has been able to do this for more than ten years, continuing to provide useful data.

LRO data has been essential for planning upcoming manned and unmanned missions to the Moon, notably NASA’s Artemis programme to send people back to the Moon, by identifying probable landing sites and risks.