NASA says it has captured images of the moon showing the “likely” impact site of Russia’s failed Luna 25 mission.
The lunar lander crashed onto the surface of the moon on Aug. 19, marking an end to Russia’s first lunar mission in nearly five decades.
“NASA’s LRO – the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter – spacecraft imaged a new crater on the Moon’s surface that is likely the impact site of Russia’s Luna 25 mission,” NASA said in a statement.
Officials say Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, published an estimate of the impact location on Aug. 21.
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“The LROC (short for LRO Camera) team and the LRO Mission Operations team were able to design and send commands to the LRO spacecraft on Aug. 22 to capture images of the site,” according to NASA. “The sequence began on Aug. 24 at 2:15 p.m. EDT and was completed about four hours later, at 6:12 p.m. EDT. The LROC team compared images taken prior to the impact time and the sequence taken after and found a small new crater.”
NASA added that the LRO’s most recent “before” image of the area was taken in June 2022, leading officials to believe that the crater – which is about 30 feet wide — was “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 also said.
At the time of the crash, Roscosmos said the spacecraft ran into a problem as it attempted to enter a pre-landing orbit.
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“The apparatus moved into an unpredictable orbit and ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the surface of the Moon,” Roscosmos said in a statement.
Roscosmos says a commission has been set up to investigate the cause for the failure. It was Russia’s first trip to lunar orbit since 1976.
The probe was intended to search for frozen water on the lunar surface, but the international prestige of the mission was far more important for the Russian government than any scientific discoveries.
“Study of the moon is not the goal,” Russian space analyst Vitaly Egorov said previously of the mission. “The goal is political competition between two superpowers — China and the USA — and a number of other countries which also want to claim the title of space superpower.”
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The Luna-25 mission was the first ever to attempt a landing at the moon’s south pole, where researchers have long suspected frozen water may exist.
Fox News’ Anders Hagstrom and Reuters contributed to this report.