Luna 20

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Luna 20
Luna 20
Operator Soviet Union
Major contractors GSMZ Lavochkin
Mission type Planetary Science
Lunar Sample Return
Launch date February 14, 1972 at
03:27:59 UTC
Launch vehicle Proton 8K82K + Blok D
Mission duration 11 days
Mission highlight 55-gram Lunar sample returned to Earth on February 25, 1972, 19:19 UTC 40 km north of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan
Satellite of Moon
Orbits ~36
COSPAR ID 1972-007A
Homepage NASA NSSDC Master Catalog
Mass 5,727 kg (5,600 kg dry)
Orbital elements
Semimajor axis 6,477.8 km
Eccentricity 0.0
Inclination 65°
Apoapsis 100 km
Periapsis 100 km
Orbital period 119 min
Lunar landing
Date February 21, 1972,
19:19 UTC
Coordinates 3° 32' N, 56° 33' E
Departure February 22, 1972,
22:58 UTC
Instruments
Stereo imaging system
Remote arm for sample collection
Radiation detector

Luna 20 (Ye-8-5 series) was the second of three successful Soviet lunar sample return missions. It was flown as part of the Luna program, also called Lunik 20, as a robotic competitor to the six successful Apollo lunar sample return missions. Luna 20 was placed in an intermediate Earth parking orbit and from this orbit was sent towards the Moon. It entered lunar orbit on February 18, 1972. On February 21, 1972, Luna 20 soft landed on the Moon in a mountainous area known as the Terra Apollonius (or Apollonius highlands) near Mare Fecunditatis (Sea of Fertility), 120 km from where Luna 16 had landed. While on the lunar surface, the panoramic television system was operated. Lunar samples were obtained by means of an extendable drilling apparatus. The ascent stage of Luna 20 was launched from the lunar surface on 22 February 1972 carrying 55 grams of collected lunar samples in a sealed capsule. It landed in the Soviet Union on 25 February 1972. The lunar samples were recovered the following day.

This was the eighth Soviet spacecraft launched to return lunar soil to Earth. It was evidently sent to complete the mission that Luna 18 had failed to accomplish. After a 4.5-day flight to the Moon, which included a single midcourse correction on 15 February, Luna 20 entered orbit around the Moon on 18 February. Initial orbital parameters were 100 x 100 kilometers at 65° inclination. Three days later, at 19:13 UT, the spacecraft fired its main engine for 267 seconds to begin descent to the lunar surface. A second firing further reduced velocity before Luna 20 set down safely on the Moon at 19:19 UT on 21 February 1972 at coordinates 3°32' north latitude and 56°33' east longitude, only 1.8 kilometers from the crash site of Luna 18. After collecting a small sample of lunar soil, the spacecraft’s ascent stage lifted off at 22:58 UT on 22 February and quickly accelerated to 2.7 kilometers per second velocity—sufficient to return to Earth. The small spherical capsule eventually parachuted down safely on an island in the Karkingir River, 40 kilometers north of the town of Jezkazgan in Kazakhstan, at 19:19 UT on 25 February 1972.

Lunar
Mission
Sample
Returned
Year
Luna 16 101 g 1970
Luna 20 55 g 1972
Luna 24 170 g 1976

The 55-gram soil sample differed from that collected by Luna 16 in that the majority (50 to 60%) of the rock particles in the newer sample were ancient lunar highlands anorthosite (which consists largely of feldspar) rather than the basalt of the earlier one (which contained about 1 to 2% of anorthosite). The American Apollo 16 mission returned similar highlands material two months later. Like the Luna 16 soil, samples of the Luna 20 collection were shared with American and French scientists.

In March 2010, NASA reported that the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter had spotted the Luna 20.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ David, Leonard (2010-03-18). "NASA Lunar Orbiter Spots Old Soviet Moon Landers". 

External links[edit]


Preceded by
Luna 19
Luna program Succeeded by
Luna 21