Russia's first moon mission in 47 years was launched on Aug. 11 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. The Russian rocket bore the lunar probe Luna-25. But on Aug. 19, the Luna-25 spacecraft spun out of control and crashed on the moon after experiencing a problem while preparing for pre-landing orbit.
"It is so sad that it was not possible to land the apparatus," said Mikhail Marov, a leading physicist and astronomer. One of the leading figures in the space program of the former Soviet Union, Marov played a key role in the development and implementation of the Soviet space exploration program. Marov was also heavily involved in the first explorations of Mars and Venus.
"For me, perhaps, it was the last hope to see the revival of our lunar program," said Marov in a statement following Luna-25's crash. But according to reports coming out of Russia, he was hospitalized following a "sharp deterioration" in his health after hearing about the failed moon mission.
Russian-language business newspaper RBK Daily claimed that Marov may have been devastated because lunar expeditions are his life's work. A statement allegedly from Marov and printed by RBK Daily claims that he is under the supervision of doctors at the Central Clinical Hospital, a heavily guarded medical facility less than 10 miles from the Kremlin in Moscow. (Related: Russian scientist who helped invent Sputnik V COVID vaccine found strangled to death in home.)
Marov's hospitalization also came after he told multiple Russian media outlets, including RBK Daily and the Moskovskij Komsomolets, that he hoped authorities will not remain quiet about the reasons for Luna-25's failure to land. He hoped these reasons would be discussed openly and examined rigorously.
According to the Russian state-owned space corporation Roscosmos, the space program lost contact with the craft at approximately 12:00 p.m. GMT on Aug. 19 after recording a problem as the craft circled around the moon for a pre-landing orbit.
Luna-25 was supposed to hold on to this orbit for over a day, with a soft landing having been planned for Aug. 21. But Roscosmos said the craft "moved into an unpredictable orbit and ceased to exist as a result of a collision with the surface of the moon."
Luna-25's crash is expected to impact Russia's long-term plans for future moon missions. Its previous schedule envisaged several more missions over the coming years, including a possible joint effort with China.
Russian President Vladimir Putin personally ordered the Luna-25 mission, the Russian Federation's most ambitious space project. Russia had not attempted a moon mission since Luna-24 in 1976 under Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev.
Konstantin Sonin, a Russian-born political economist from the University of Chicago, claimed that the moon mission was Putin's latest "vanity project" to distract from ongoing Russian repression against intellectuals and scientists.
"In Soviet times, vanity was there, and military goals were there. Yet it was also a wealth of genuine enthusiasm of scientists and engineers… They used the state's vanity and desire to have missiles to fulfill their space dreams," said Sonin. "Putin's people, besides vanity, put the money into the space project for one single reason: to have this money stolen. It would be a miracle if the Luna-25 mission was successful – Putin's people did everything to see it fail."
Russian media sources are already blaming endemic corruption within Roscosmos for the mission's failure. The future of Roscosmos Administrator Yury Borisov, a Putin loyalist and deputy premier, is already being questioned. Borisov is being accused of ending probes into corruption and the misuse of budgets at the space agency.
Learn the latest news about lunar missions and other space exploration activities at Space.news.
Watch this video that posits how corruption may have played a role in Luna-25's "spectacular crash."