Russia's Luna-25 reportedly failed due to an engine issue

Roscosmos chief Yuri Borisov said the 47-year wait since Russia's last lunar landing meant they had to try to "master all the technologies all over again."
Chris Young
A Soyuz-2.1b rocket launches the Luna-25 mission.
A Soyuz-2.1b rocket launches the Luna-25 mission.

Roscosmos / AP 

Russia's space agency, Roscosmos, announced on Sunday, August 20, that its Luna-25 lander had crashed into the Moon before it could perform a historic landing attempt on the lunar south pole.

Luna-25 was Russia's first lunar mission in almost 50 years. Russian officials undoubtedly hoped success would show Russia's space operations could continue to function and even excel in the face of heavy space industry sanctions levied against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine.

It wasn't to be, and now Yury Borisov, head of Roscosmos, has provided an update, telling state media that the crash of Luna-25 was likely caused by an engine failure, a report from CNN reveals.

Russia's Luna-25 likely crashed due to engine failure

Borisov explained that the engine burn required to perform a successful lunar landing had been tested during ground simulations prior to the mission. However, as Luna-25 approached its destination, things did not go as planned.

"Before making adjustments, the spacecraft reoriented, and at 14:10 the engines were turned on, that were supposed to correct the course and lead the spacecraft to pre-landing orbit," Borisov explained in an interview with state media channel, Russia-24. "Unfortunately, the engine shutdown did not occur normally in accordance with the cyclogram, but according to a temporary cutoff.”

"Instead of the planned 84 seconds, the engine worked for 127 seconds,” he continued. “This was the main cause of the spacecraft’s crash."

Russia's Luna-25 reportedly failed due to an engine issue
An image of the lunar surface captured by Luna-25 prior to its crash.

Had Luna-25 been successful, it would have landed as soon as Monday, August 21, making Russia the first nation to perform a soft landing on the lunar south pole. Instead, Roscosmos lost contact with the spacecraft on Saturday, August 19, and the mission was declared a failure the following day.

This means that India's Chandrayaan-3 lander, which is scheduled to perform a landing attempt tomorrow, August 23, could become the first to successfully touch down on the lunar south pole.

The world's leading space agencies, including NASA, Roscosmos, and China's space administration, have set their sights on the lunar south pole as scientists believe the region harbors large amounts of water ice hidden beneath lunar soil and inside shadowed craters.

Russia will accelerate Luna-26 and Luna-27 missions

Roscosmos has now announced that a special commission will perform a detailed investigation into the reasons for the loss of Luna-25 via the failed engine burn.

Work on Russia's next lunar missions, Luna-26 and Luna-27, will also be accelerated, according to a report from Russian state media publication TASS.

During his interview, Borisov said the almost 50-year pause in Russia's lunar program may be partly to blame for the loss of Luna-25. Luna-25 is Russia's first lunar lander since the successful Luna-24 lunar landing in 1976 — that mission was launched during the Soviet era.

"We have to essentially master all the technologies all over again — of course, at a new technical level," Borisov explained.