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The Luna-Glob lander targets
Moon's South Pole region

Special section by Anatoly Zak; Editor: Alain Chabot

Luna-Glob (a.k.a. Luna-25) is the first robotic mission developed in post-Soviet Russia for the exploration of the Moon. Aiming to land in the high-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere of our natural satellite, it was intended to pave the way to a whole series of robotic and, eventually, piloted lunar expeditions.



Luna-Glob (Luna-25) mission at a glance:

Launch vehicle Soyuz-2/Fregat
Launch site Vostochny, 1S
Launch date (as of 2022) 2023 July - August
Launch site Vostochny, 1S
Destination Moon, South Pole region
Mission duration One year
insider content

1990s: Origin of the Luna-Glob project

After the USSR launched its final space probes to the Moon in the mid-1970s, the robotic lunar exploration program fell in priority below Mars-bound missions. Only after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, did another lunar mission get an approval for the initial development. It was dubbed Luna-Glob.


Original scenario of the Luna-Glob mission

By 1998, NPO Lavochkin evaluated two possible variations of the Luna-Glob spacecraft, which could be launched by the existing Molniya rocket or by the prospective Soyuz-Fregat system. The ambitious project included a cruise module, a cassette with pencil-shape penetrator probes and a 250-kilogram polar lander. However the project did not go far, primarily due to lack of funding.


Mid-2000s: First attempt to revive Luna-Glob project

Efforts to revive the Luna-Glob project started at the end of 1999, or almost two years after the financial crisis in Russia had stalled the program. At the time, the ever-increasing complexity of the flagship mission to Phobos gave scientists a reason to advocate a pathfinder test flight which could try new hardware and technologies needed for a flight to Phobos.


Late 2000s: Attempt at cooperation with India

From around 2007, the Russian and Indian space agencies discussed a joint lunar mission, which became known as Luna-Resurs. According to a primary scenario, Luna-Resurs was expected to follow Luna-Glob and, possibly, use its Moon-orbiting component as a relay station for communications with ground control.

Lander 2011: Luna-Glob becomes exclusively lander mission

On Nov. 17, 2011, the Space Council within the Russian Academy of Sciences, RAN, officially decided that Luna-Glob and Luna-Resurs missions had to be split into separate landing and orbiting missions. However, despite common sense dictating launching of the orbiter ahead of the lander, Russian planners put the landing mission first.


2012: Reassessing the Russian lunar exploration program

Following the Phobos-Grunt fiasco in November 2011, a new Russian plan for unmanned lunar exploration emerged at the beginning of 2012. Although launch dates of the upcoming missions had to be delayed in order to learn the lessons of Phobos-Grunt, the unmanned lunar exploration program finally received the priority among planetary missions.


2013: Learning the lessons of Phobos-Grunt

More than a year after the Phobos-Grunt failure, Russian engineers still had much work to do to prevent history repeating itself with the upcoming robotic moon landing. According to multiple industry sources, work on the Moon-bound Luna-Glob landers also suffered from the faulty technological legacy that doomed Phobos-Grunt.


2014: Russian Moon missions face three-year delay

In 2014, an updated schedule of the Russian robotic planetary program revealed multi-year delays for the Luna-Glob lander, Luna-Glob orbiter and Luna-Resurs lander missions. The launch of the first mission in the trio was pushed back from 2016 to 2019.


2015: Luna-Glob faces new delays

Between 2014 and 2015, the long-delayed Luna-Glob lander started appearing in metal, however its launch had to be postponed again from the end of 2017 to the end of 2018 and even that schedule was already looking as highly unrealistic.


2017: Luna-Glob's stop and go

In 2017, Luna-Glob continued crawling through the development process, transitioning from blueprints and mockups to flight-worthy components. But limited resources and other priorities kept the launch date for the Luna-Glob clouded in uncertainty.


2020: Luna-Glob works against expectations (INSIDER CONTENT)

After years of broken promises, the Luna-Glob project made the most optimistic headlines in 2020, but behind-the-scene reports put the loudly advertised October 2021 launch date for the mission in serious doubt despite some visible progress.

2021 2021: Luna-Glob faces uphill battle (INSIDER CONTENT)

In the first half of 2021, a continuous stream of official announcements kept promising the imminent launch of Luna-Glob October, and as usual, experts warned about the lack of time to adequately prepare the mission before the end of the year. Indeed, in the second half of 2021, a delay to May 2022 was confirmed.

2022 2022: Luna-Glob will not fly as promised (INSIDER CONTENT)

Active preparations for the launch of Luna-Glob continued in 2022, but there was practically no chance for the mission to launch in the middle of this year as advertised by Roskosmos.


2023: Luna-Glob project is in a tight race to launch (INSIDER CONTENT)

In 2023, Russian engineers working on the preparation of the Luna-Glob spacecraft had only two days in July and August to launch their first mission to the Moon since 1976.




NEW, April 10: Design of the Luna-Glob spacecraft (INSIDER CONTENT)

The Luna-Glob lander was developed at NPO Lavochkin as a scaled down version of the Soviet-era E8 platform that was a delivery vehicle for the famous Lunokhod (rover) and Lunocherpalka (sample-return spacecraft) in the 1970s.


Flight scenario of the Luna-Glob mission (INSIDER CONTENT)

The Luna-Glob mission will begin with the liftoff of a medium-lift Soyuz rocket. It is a major departure from the most advanced Soviet lunar probes which relied on a more powerful Proton rocket. At the same time, Luna-Glob will target a harder-to-reach southern polar region of the Moon for the first time instead of the easier-to-reach landing sites in near-equatorial latitudes.


Landing scenario for the Luna-Glob project

Attempted by Russia for the first time since 1976, a touchdown onto the lunar surface will be one of the riskiest aspects of the Luna-Glob mission. The landing will be staged from the low orbit around the Moon.


NEW, May 25: Luna-Glob seeks pioneering science (INSIDER CONTENT)

The Luna-Glob mission was intended for a wide range of scientific investigations on the surface of the Moon, as well as for testing technologies and acquiring engineering experience for future lunar exploration. It was developed with the ambition to be the world's first lander operating in the polar regions of the Moon.

Last update: May 25, 2023