After 47 years, Russia is set to return to the Moon with its Luna 25 lander mission.

Luna-25 took off atop a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Vostochny launch facility in Russia at 2:10 a.m. Moscow time (4:40 am IST) on Friday, TASS news agency reported.

Russia’s last lunar mission, Luna-24 was launched in 1976, during the former Soviet Union period.

It successfully delivered about 170 grams of moon samples to Earth.

Luna-25 is expected to reach the Moon’s orbit on August 16 before landing on August 21.

The spacecraft will spend between three and seven days about 100 km above the lunar surface before touching down in the area of the Boguslawsky crater.

Manzinus and Pentland-A craters have been named as alternative landing sites.

Once landing safely, Luna-25 aims to work on the lunar surface for at least one Earth year.

Its key goal is to polish the soft landing technology. If successful, the mission may become the first spacecraft ever to land near the South Pole of the Moon.

Luna-25’s “most important task, to put it simply, is to sit where no one has sat,” Maxim Litvak, a chief scientist for the mission from Russia’s Space Research Institute (known by the acronym IKI), said in a posting on the IKI website.

“Now everyone is aiming for the polar regions; this area is intriguing to everyone in the scientific community,” Litvak said.

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“There are signs of ice in the soil of the Luna-25 landing area; this can be seen from data from orbit. In the equatorial regions where we landed earlier, this is not the case.”

Interestingly, Luna-25 is slated to touch down around the same time, and in the same general area, as India’s Chandrayaan 3 probe, which launched on July 14 and arrived in lunar orbit on August 6.

US space agency NASA also plans to establish one or bases near the moon’s south pole by the end of the 2020s, via its Artemis program.

The spacecraft aims to search for natural resources, including water, and study the effects of space rays and electromagnetic emissions on the lunar surface.

The lander is equipped with several cameras. They will make timelapse footage of the landing and an HDR wide-angle image of the moonscape.

Luna-25 will turn its cameras during pre-programmed periods and on a signal from the Earth, TASS reported.

Meanwhile, the Russian space agency Roscosmos’ Director-General also announced timeframes for upcoming Moon missions.

“Luna-26 is scheduled for 2027, Luna-27 – for 2028, Luna-28 – in 2030 or later,” Yury Borisov was quoted as saying.

After that, Russia’s space corporation will launch the next phase of the program.

“Subsequently, we will begin the next phase – a manned mission and the construction of a lunar base – with our colleagues from China,” Borisov said. “This would be a long-lasting and important program and we expect many countries to join it.”

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