The Luna-25 mission lifted off on Aug. 10 atop a Soyuz-2.1b rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far eastern Amur Region, marking the first domestically produced probe sent to the moon in modern Russian history. The last moon mission from what is now Russia, Luna-24, took off in 1976 and returned about 170 grams of lunar samples.


Luna-25’s first images were taken on Sunday (Aug. 13) and published Monday (Aug. 14) by the Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IKI RAS). The black-and-white photo collection shows the Russian flag and mission patch on the spacecraft’s structure alongside images of Earth and the moon shining bright against the blackness of space.

While there was some initial speculation published on social media about the state of Luna-25 in the days following its launch, the images appear to dispel these worries and prove the lander is healthy and on its way to its lunar destination.

If all goes according to plan, Luna-25 will reach the moon on Tuesday (Aug. 15) before orbiting Earth’s glowing white satellite for five to seven days. From there, the probe will attempt a landing near one of three craters surrounding the lunar south pole. The probe was designed to operate for at least one year.

Once on the lunar surface, assuming its landing goes well, Luna-25 will analyze lunar soil, search for water ice and conduct experiments about the moon’s thin atmosphere. The lander carries eight different instruments including a laser mass spectrometer and a device that can zap lunar soil samples then examine the resulting fumes to analyze chemical composition.

Luna-25 adds to a growing list of international moon missions aimed at either studying or landing near the lunar south pole region.

According to the space