Luna 23

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Luna 23
Operator Soviet Union
Major contractors GSMZ Lavochkin
Mission type Planetary Science Lunar Sample Return
Launch date 28 October 1974 14:30:32 UTC
Carrier rocket Proton-K/D
Launch site Baikonur Cosmodrome
Mission duration 12 days
Satellite of Moon
Orbital insertion date 2 November 1974
Orbits ~48
COSPAR ID 1974-084A
Mass 5,800 kg (12,800 lb)
Orbital elements
Semimajor axis 6,476.8 km (4,024.5 mi)
Eccentricity ?
Inclination 138°
Apoapsis 104 km (65 mi)
Periapsis 94 km (58 mi)
Orbital period ~119 minutes
Moon landing
Date 6 November 1974
Coordinates 12°39′50″N 62°07′48″E / 12.664°N 62.13°E / 12.664; 62.13
Main instruments Stereo photographic imaging system
Improved Drill/Remote arm for sample collection
Radiation detector
References: NASA NSSDC Master Catalog

Luna 23 (Ye-8-5M series), also called Lunik 23, was an unmanned space mission of the Luna program.

Luna 23 was a Moon lander mission which was intended to return a lunar sample to Earth. Launched to the Moon by a Proton-K/D, the spacecraft was damaged during landing in Mare Crisium (Sea of Crises). The sample collecting apparatus could not operate and no samples were returned. The lander continued transmissions for three days after landing. In 1976, Luna 24 landed several hundred meters away and successfully returned samples.

Luna 23 was the first modified lunar sample return spacecraft, designed to return a deep core sample of the Moon's surface (hence the change in index from Ye-8-5 to Ye-8-5M). While Luna 16 and 20 had returned samples from a depth of 0.3 meters, the new spacecraft was designed to dig to 2.5 meters. After a midcourse correction on 31 October, Luna 23 entered orbit around the Moon on 2 November 1974. Parameters were 104 × 94 kilometers at 138° inclination. Following several more changes to the orbit, the spacecraft descended to the lunar surface on 6 November and landed in the southernmost portion of Mare Crisium. Landing coordinates were 13° north latitude and 62° east longitude. During landing in "unfavorable" terrain, the lander's drilling device was evidently damaged, preventing fulfillment of the primary mission, the return of lunar soil to Earth. Scientists devised a makeshift plan to conduct a limited science exploration program with the stationary lander. Controllers maintained contact with the spacecraft until 9 November 1974.

High resolution orbital photographs taken by the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and released in March 2012 showed the Luna 23 spacecraft lying on its side on the lunar surface. The spacecraft evidently tipped over upon landing, perhaps due to higher than nominal vertical and/or horizontal velocities at touchdown.[1]

  • Launch Date/Time: 1974-10-28 at 14:30:32 UTC
  • On-orbit dry mass: 5600 kg

In Media[edit]

  • The Luna 23 is featured in the game Mass Effect (set in the year 2183) as the 'CCCP Luna 23'. The player can choose to strip the probe for parts when it is found on the surface of Earth's moon during a mission.

The Asteroid-like object 2010 KQ is believed to be a rocket that parted the Luna 23 module after launch.


  1. ^ Plescia, Jeff (March 16, 2012). "Mare Crisium: Failure then Success". LROC News System. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Luna 22
Luna programme Succeeded by
Luna 1975A