The celestial pathway around the Moon is poised to become more crowded. Russia’s Luna 25 undertaking is primed for liftoff on August 10, 2023, and is projected to settle into lunar orbit by August 16, 2023.
Chandrayaan-2, the lunar expedition by India, remains operational in a polar orbit at an elevation of 100 kilometres, notwithstanding the loss of communication with its Vikram lander in 2019.
As India’s Chandrayaan-3 mission progressively lowers its lunar orbit, the lunar expanse is abuzz with activity. India is accompanied by other participants on this lunar journey.
As of July 2023, the Moon is on the brink of transforming into a bustling epicentre of ventures, with six active lunar orbiters and numerous others in the pipeline.
The ongoing lunar traffic encompasses NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), two craft from NASA’s THEMIS mission reconfigured under ARTEMIS, India’s Chandrayaan-2, Korea Pathfinder Lunar Orbiter (KPLO), and NASA’s Capstone.
The LRO, initiated in June 2009, circumnavigates the Moon within altitudes of 50 to 200 kilometres, delivering intricate maps of the lunar terrain. The ARTEMIS P1 and P2 probes, injected into lunar orbit in June 2011, operate within stable equatorial orbits with high eccentricity, around altitudes of approximately 100 kilometres at the perigee and 19,000 kilometres at the apogee.
Chandrayaan-2, despite the breakdown in communication with its Vikram lander in 2019, sustains operations within a polar orbit situated at an altitude of 100 kilometres. KPLO and Capstone also contribute to the lunar activity, with Capstone navigating a Near-Rectilinear Halo Orbit (NRHO).
Incoming Surge in Activity
The lunar thoroughfare is gearing up for amplified movement. Russia’s Luna 25 endeavour is on course for a launch on August 10, 2023, and is anticipated to achieve lunar orbit by August 16, 2023.
The aspiration of this mission is to probe the Moon’s south pole, signifying Russia’s resurgence on the lunar terrain after a 47-year hiatus. Luna 25 is poised to join the lunar orbiter fleet in a 100-kilometre altitude orbit, with plans for a landing at the Moon’s southern pole slated between August 21-23, 2023.
In tandem with Luna 25, NASA’s Artemis initiative continues to map out successive lunar missions. Artemis 1, an unpiloted test voyage, encircled and traversed beyond the Moon in late 2022. The forthcoming Artemis endeavours are poised to contribute to the lunar commotion.
The escalating influx of lunar endeavours is transforming the Moon into a nucleus for scientific revelations and explorations.
However, this escalation in lunar traffic also poses challenges in the orchestration and supervision of the diverse orbiters, to avert potential collisions and ensure the triumph of these audacious quests. While our aspirations expand beyond our planet, it appears that the Moon is transforming into a bustling interlude on the odyssey of space exploration.