Russia shoots for the Moon for the first time since 1976

The Soyuz rocket carrying Luna 25 lifts off from the Vostochny Cosmodrome.

Russia launched its first robotic mission to the moon since 1976 on Thursday. The Luna 25 spacecraft, also known as the Luna-Glob-Lander lifted off at 7:10 p.m. EDT (2310 UTC).

The lander’s mission is to touchdown north of Boguslawsky crater near the south pole of the Moon. It is equipped withs eight scientific instruments, including a mechanical arm and bucket that can scoop up lunar regolith.

The Soyuz-2-1b/Fregat rocket that will place it into lunar orbit launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s far east. The Frigate upper stage was supposed to fire twice to put it on a five-day trek to the moon. Luna 25 will then take about a week moving from a circular orbit to an elliptical one that will bring its low point to within a dozen miles of the surface. Its landing date has not been announced.

Artist’s concept of Luna 25 on the surface of the Moon. Image: N.P.O. Lavochkin.

Fully-fueled, the lander weighs 3,900 pounds (1,750 kg) and stands about 10.5 feet (3.17 meters) tall.

Beyond proving its landing capability, the Luna-25 mission has two main goals: Study the makeup of the lunar south pole, including the presence of frozen water, and learn more about the impacts of cosmic rays and electromagnetic radiation on the moon’s surface.