Loss of Luna-25: causes and consequences

Yesterday’s crash of the Luna-25 spacecraft was an unpleasant event for the Russian space industry. According to Roscosmos, the spacecraft entered an uncalculated orbit, collided with the Moon and ceased to exist. However, the more general reasons for the station’s demise are strategic in nature.

The concept of pragmatic space, which became fashionable in the Russian space industry after the collapse of the USSR, is that spaceflight should bring economic benefits. This is why Roscosmos rarely undertakes interplanetary missions and plans them on a residual principle.

Since 1991, Roscosmos has made only three attempts to send vehicles to other celestial bodies: two to Phobos and one to the Moon. All three missions ended in failure. This is because the less often a person or organization tries something difficult, the worse they succeed. The experience of spacecraft flying to other celestial bodies is much less than that of Earth-based airplanes.

It is impossible to work out all situations arising in space on Earth, and this was clear even in the days of the Soviet lunar automatic program. When new vehicles are developed every ten years, as it was after 1991 in Russia, no experience is gained. The people who worked on the Mars-96 and Phobos-Grunt projects are retired or no longer work in the industry.

The loss of Luna-25 was a serious lesson for the Russian space industry. More attention should be paid to the development and testing of new vehicles to improve skills and accumulate experience for successful interplanetary missions.

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