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Luna 4

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Luna 4
Mission typeLunar lander
OperatorSoviet space program
COSPAR ID1963-008B[1]
SATCAT no.566[1]
Mission duration12 days (launch to last contact)
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftYe-6 No.4[2]
Launch mass1,422 kilograms (3,135 lb)[3]
Start of mission
Launch dateApril 2, 1963, 08:04:00 (1963-04-02UTC08:04Z) UTC[1]
RocketMolniya-L 8K78/E6
Launch siteBaikonur 1/5[2]
End of mission
Last contactApril 14, 1963[4]
Orbital parameters
Reference systemBarycentric
(Earth-Moon system)
Semi-major axis394,128 kilometres (244,900 mi)
Periapsis altitude199 kilometres (124 mi)[5]
Apoapsis altitude694,000 kilometres (431,000 mi)[5]
Inclination65.0 degrees[5]
Period24.21 days[5]
EpochApril 2, 1963[5]
Lunar flyby (failed landing)
Closest approachApril 6, 1963, 1:24 UT[3]
Distance8,336.2 kilometres (5,179.9 mi)

Luna 4, or E-6 No.4 (Ye-6 series), sometimes known in the West as Sputnik 26, was a Soviet spacecraft launched as part of the Luna program to attempt the first soft landing on the Moon. Following a successful launch, the spacecraft failed to perform a course correction and as a result it missed the Moon, remaining instead in Earth orbit.



Luna 4 was launched by a Molniya-L carrier rocket at 08:16:37 UTC on April 2, 1963. Launch occurred from Site 1/5 at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. After reaching an initial parking orbit of 167 by 182 kilometres (104 by 113 mi), the rocket's upper stage restarted to place Luna 4 onto a translunar trajectory.

The spacecraft did not perform a required midcourse correction manoeuvre, which resulted in it missing the Moon by 8,336.2 kilometres (5,179.9 mi) at 1:24 UT on April 5, 1963. It then entered a barycentric 90,000 × 700,000 km Earth orbit. A lecture program entitled Hitting the Moon was scheduled to be broadcast on Radio Moscow at 7:45 p.m. the evening of April 5 but was cancelled. The spacecraft transmitted at 183.6 MHz at least until April 6.

Lunar surface close-up photography


The purpose of this experiment was to obtain information on the characteristics of the lunar surface. These characteristics included the amount of cratering, structure and size of craters, the amount, distribution, and sizes of ejecta, mechanical properties of the surface such as bearing strength, cohesiveness, compaction, etc. Determination and recognition of processes operating to produce the lunar surface features also were among the objectives of this photographic experiment.


  1. ^ a b c "Luna 4". NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Krebs, Gunter. "Luna Ye-6". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Siddiqi, Asif A. (2018). Beyond Earth: A Chronicle of Deep Space Exploration, 1958–2016 (PDF). The NASA history series (second ed.). Washington, DC: NASA History Program Office. p. 34. ISBN 9781626830424. LCCN 2017059404. SP2018-4041.
  4. ^ S. N. Vernov, A. Ye. Chudakov, P. V. Vakulov, Ye. V. Gorchakov, Yu. I. Logachev, G. P. Lyubimov, A. G. Nikolayev, 1964, Investigation of Radiation with the Flights of the "Mars 1" and "Luna 4" Interplanetary Automatic Stations, Cosmic Research, vol. 2, no. 4, translated from the Russian, https://apps.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/605513.pdf
  5. ^ a b c d e McDowell, Jonathan. "Satellite Catalog". Jonathan's Space Page. Retrieved May 3, 2018.