Russia’s Luna-25 mission made an undignified crash-landing on the surface of the Moon last month, leaving behind a giant creator on the pitted lunar surface.
The Russian space agency Roscosmos estimates that the spacecraft crashed into the Moon after entering an uncontrolled orbit on August 19 at 11:57 UTC. On August 21, they published an estimated location for the unplanned landing, prompting a team from NASA to see whether their Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) had gathered any images of the crash site.
The sequence of images was taken by the LRO from August 24 onwards. They show the new crater, around 10 meters (33 feet) in diameter, located along the inner rim of Pontécoulant G crater, about 400 kilometers (248 miles) short of Luna-25’s intended landing point.
“LRO’s most recent ‘before’ image of the area was captured in June 2022 [...]; thus, the crater formed sometime after that date. Since this new crater is close to the Luna 25 estimated impact point, the LRO team concludes it is likely to be from that mission, rather than a natural impactor,” NASA said in a statement.
The International Astronomical Union currently recognizes 9,137 craters on the Moon, but data from China's Chang'e lunar orbiter suggests the real figure is significantly higher at around 130,000 (or should that now be 130,001?).
The wreckage of Luna-25 will be in good company as there’s a hell of a lot of human-made debris on the Moon. There are approximately 200 tons of our trash on the lunar surface, including crashed spacecraft remains, rocket boosters, almost 100 bags of human waste, six US flags, a Bible, and a few golf balls.
Yury Borisov, the head of Roscosmos, suggested that the Luna-25 crash occurred because the probe's maneuvering engine could not be shut down. He told reporters that the spacecraft’s thruster fired for 127 seconds instead of the planned 84 seconds, causing it to crash.
It was speculated that the failed mission was hurried in order to beat India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission to land on the south pole of the Moon. To rub salt into the wounds of the Russians, India’s uncrewed landing was a seamless success, making them the first country to land at the lunar South Pole.
It looks like Russia's gamble to beat India didn't pay off, but that's just the way the dice roll sometimes. As they say in Russia: “He who doesn't take risks, never drinks champagne!”