A Soyuz 2.1v rocket carrying the Luna-25 craft blasted off from the Vostochny cosmodrome, 3,450 miles (5,550 km) east of Moscow, on Friday at 02:11am Moscow time.
The lander is expected to touch down on the moon on Aug. 21, Russia’s space chief Yuri Borisov told Interfax on Friday. Russian space agency Roscosmos previously pegged Aug. 23 as the landing date.
“Now we will wait for the 21st. I hope that a highly precise soft landing on the moon will happen,” Borisov told workers at the Vostochny cosmodrome after the launch, according to Interfax.
Luna-25, roughly the size of a small car, will aim to operate for a year on the moon’s south pole, where scientists at NASA and other space agencies in recent years have detected traces of water ice in the region’s shadowed craters.
There is much riding on the Luna-25 mission, as the Kremlin says the West’s sanctions over the Ukraine war, many of which have targeted Moscow’s aerospace sector, have failed to cripple the Russian economy.