Russia’s first moon mission since 1976 launched from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in east Russia at 7:10PM EDT on Thursday, marking a key milestone in the nation’s history.

This is according to a live broadcast hosted on YouTube by Russian space agency Roscosmos.

According to a report by Reuters, Roscosmos said that its spacecraft will now take five days to fly to the moon. However, once there, it will not touch down immediately, choosing instead to spend five to seven days in lunar orbit before attempting to land on one of three possible locations near the pole.

Looking for ice

Luna-25 is the country’s first lunar lander since 1976 and it traveled to the moon aboard a Soyuz 2.1a rocket. It was built by Russian researchers to perform a soft landing on the lunar south pole in the hopes of finding ice that can be converted into water, oxygen, and rocket propellant.

The lander was the work of Russian aerospace company NPO Lavochkina who released a statement noting that “it is planned that the device will be the first in the world to carry out a soft landing on the surface of the moon in the south pole region and conduct contact studies of the lunar soil for the presence of ice at the landing site.”

The statement also added that the main purpose of the mission “is to develop the basic technologies for a soft landing in the circumpolar region and conduct contact studies of the south pole of the moon.”

The mission was also supposed to carry a navigation camera called Pilot-D supplied by the European Space Agency but that project was canceled after Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

Russia’s last mission to the moon was called Luna-24 and managed to successfully return a sample of lunar dirt and rock back to Earth. 

Evacuating a whole village

Meanwhile, in anticipation of this historic launch, the entire village of Shakhtinskyi was evacuated as reports indicated that it may lie in the region where the Soyuz rocket’s boosters may land after they separate from the spacecraft.

The small village is located in Russia’s Khabarovsk region and saw its residents evacuated from their homes early morning and taken to a location where they could watch the launch and be privy to a free meal. They will be required to avoid their home area for approximately three and a half hours despite the fact that a Russian official was quoted as saying there’s a “one in a million chance” any rocket pieces will actually reach the village.