NASA has found a new crater on the moon likely caused by the impact of a Russian spacecraft that crashed last month.
Luna-25, a robot lander, met its untimely end as it looked to touch down on the lunar surface’s south pole.
Russia had hoped it would spend a year collecting samples of rock and dust from an area of the moon thought to contain water ice – a potential source of fuel and a way to sustain a human base.
Just a few days after the crash, which Moscow’s Roscosmos space agency blamed on its decades-long pause in lunar exploration, India’s Chandrayaan-3 craft became the first ever to land there.
NASA said it had spotted the likely impact of Luna-25’s accident using its Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
It released images of the site after Roscosmos published its own estimate of the impact point.
Russian experts said the craft, which crashed on 19 August, suffered an anomaly ahead of its attempted descent.
According to NASA’s images, the new crater is about 10 metres in diameter and located on the steep inner rim of Pontecoulant G, an existing crater 250 miles short of Luna-25’s intended landing point.
The US space agency compared the picture to one taken of the same area in June 2022, and concluded the fresh crater was likely from the crashed craft.
Russia’s bid to prove space credentials
Luna-25’s mission was the first moon venture launched by Russia in almost 50 years.
It was carried into space by a rocket from the country’s far eastern Vostochny spaceport, which was a pet project of Vladimir Putin.
Roscosmos has been keen to prove itself as a “space superpower” since the invasion of Ukraine saw its experts lose access to Western technology.
Ahead of the launch, it said it wanted to prove Russia “is a state capable of delivering a payload to the moon” and “ensure Russia’s guaranteed access to the moon’s surface”.
The country is currently working on its own orbital outpost as it prepares to leave the International Space Station.