The Luna 25 spacecraft reported an “emergency situation on board,” the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, said on Saturday.
An incident occurred when the spacecraft was trying to enter a pre-landing orbit, according to Roscosmos.
During the operation, an emergency situation arose on board the automatic station, which did not allow the maneuver to be carried out with the specified parameters,” Roscosmos said in a Telegram publication.
“The management team is reviewing the situation at present,” the space agency added.
It is unknown if the problem will prevent the lunar lander, which was scheduled to land near the moon’s south pole on Monday, from attempting a landing maneuver.
Image made from video released by the Russian space agency, Roscosmos, of the Soyuz-2.1b rocket with the Luna 25 lander on a launch pad at the Vostochny cosmodrome in Amur Oblast on August 10. Luna 25’s launch to the moon is Russia’s first since 1976, when it was part of the Soviet Union. Roscosmos State Space Corporation/AP
Russia’s Luna 25 mission marked the country’s first attempt to put a spacecraft on the moon since the Soviet era. The last lunar lander, Luna 24, touched down on the lunar surface on August 18, 1976.
The spacecraft launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Amur Oblast aboard a Soyuz-2 Fregat rocket on August 10, putting the vehicle on a fast journey to the natural satellite.
Luna 25’s trajectory enabled it to overtake India’s Chandrayaan-3 lunar lander, which launched in mid-July, on its way to the lunar surface.
However, media characterizations of India and Russia competing over the lunar south pole are not entirely accurate, according to astrophysicist Jonathan McDowell, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. He noted that both projects have been in the works for more than a decade.
The safe landing of a spacecraft on the lunar surface would mark a big step for Russia’s space program.
Luna 25 is also considered a testing ground for future Roscosmos robotic lunar exploration missions. Several future missions to the Moon are scheduled to make use of the same spacecraft design.
Russia is also trying to show that its civilian space program, which some experts say has struggled for decades, can still function on high-profile, high-risk missions.
“They had a lot of problems with quality control, corruption and funding,” said Victoria Samson, director of the Washington office of the Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes the peaceful exploration of outer space.