Russia shoots for the moon as space race against US heats up

In the early hours of Friday morning, state space agency Roscosmos launched the country’s first lunar mission in nearly half a century as an ambitious play in the scramble to build a base on the moon, writes POLITICO.

“If they pull it off, it will be a massive technological and scientific achievement,” said Tim Marshall, author of “The Future of Geography” on the geopolitics of space. He argues a successful Russian landing, and fruitful year of research, would mark a big step forward in plans to build a moon base with China by the 2030s.

Russia’s Luna-25 mission is being dispatched to scope out the Lunar south pole, where scientists believe there’s a plentiful supply of water locked in ice in the perpetual shade of mountain ridges.

Simply successfully landing a spacecraft on the rocky Lunar south pole — which would be a first in itself — would also prove to Beijing that Moscow still has something to offer when it comes to cutting-edge aerospace technology. The two countries have already pledged to work together to build a moon base by the 2030s, but Beijing is the clear leader these days.

“I don’t think that a lot of people at this point would say that Russia is actually ready to be landing cosmonauts on the moon in the timeframe that we’re talking about,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said during a panel in response to Luna-25.