Russia launched a moon-bound space probe on Friday — the country’s first in almost 50 years.
The Luna-25 lander — launched from Vostochny Cosmodrome in the early hours of Moscow local time — is the first lunar lander launched by Russia since 1976.
“For the first time in history, the lunar landing will take place on the lunar south pole. Until now, everyone has been landing in the equatorial zone,” said Alexander Blokhin, senior official at Roscosmos.
Roscosmos is a state-operated space travel outfit based in Russia. It was formed in 1992 as the Russian Federal Space Agency after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It is headed by Yuriy Borisov, who previously served as a deputy prime minister under Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Study of the moon is not the goal,” said Russian space analyst Vitaly Egorov. “The goal is political competition between two superpowers — China and the USA — and a number of other countries which also want to claim the title of space superpower.”
The probe is scheduled to enter the moon’s orbit in approximately five days. Roscosmos then expects the probe to make a landing on the lunar surface around Aug. 21.
Russia, then the USSR, was the first country to put a man in space when Yuri Gagarin circled the Earth in 1961 via the Vostok 1.
This will be the first attempt by post-Soviet Russia to place a spacecraft on the moon, and its success or failure will set the tone for future space missions.
Russia and China have increasingly invested in and enhanced their space programs in recent years, creating new threats to U.S. security in outer space.
According to officials with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the two countries have been reorganizing and reforming their space forces.
Last year, Russia and China signed a deal to develop a joint lunar station.
Plans for the moon base, dubbed the International Lunar Research Station, were first revealed in June 2021 during the Global Space Exploration Conference in St. Petersburg by Roscosmos and the China National Space Administration.
According to the DIA report, Russia publicly supports a space arms control agreement – but its military doctrine states otherwise. The DIA’s assessment is that “Russia views space as a warfighting domain and that achieving supremacy in space will be a decisive factor in winning future conflicts.”
Fox News Digital’s Amy Munneke and Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.