Luna programme

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Moon landing map.jpg
Locations of Luna landings on the Moon are marked in red; Apollo missions in green, and Surveyor in yellow.
CountrySoviet Union
PurposeUncrewed exploration of the Moon
StatusCompleted
Program history
Duration1958–1976
Maiden flight
Last flight
Successes15
Failures29
Partial failures0
Launch site(s)Baikonur Cosmodrome
Vehicle information
Launch vehicle(s)

The Luna programme (from the Russian word Луна "Luna" meaning "Lunar" or "Moon"), occasionally called Lunik or Lunnik by western media, was a series of robotic spacecraft missions sent to the Moon by the Soviet Union between 1959 and 1976. Fifteen were successful, each designed as either an orbiter or lander, and accomplished many firsts in space exploration. They also performed many experiments, studying the Moon's chemical composition, gravity, temperature, and radiation.

Twenty-four spacecraft were formally given the Luna designation, although more were launched. Those that failed to reach orbit were not publicly acknowledged at the time, and not assigned a Luna number. Those that failed in low Earth orbit were usually given Cosmos designations.[1] The estimated cost of the Luna programme in 1964 was $6bn to $10bn.[2]

Mission types[edit]

The name Luna was used to designate a variety of spacecraft designs, to achieve several types of missions:

Impactors[edit]

Luna 1 impactor

Impactor spacecraft are designed to hit the near side of the Moon, transmitting photographs back to Earth until their destruction on impact. Luna 1 (January 1959) missed its intended impact with the Moon and became the first spacecraft to achieve escape velocity.[3] Luna 2 (September 1959) mission successfully hit the Moon's surface, becoming the first man-made object to reach the Moon.[4] This was Luna's only impact success out of six tries from September 1958 to September 1959.

The United States competed with the Luna impactors via the Ranger programme, which performed four successful impacts in nine attempts from August 1961 to March 1965.

Flybys[edit]

A flyby is the simplest lunar spacecraft, requiring neither a propulsion device for slowing, nor a guidance system sensitive enough to hit the Moon. Its function is to transmit photographs back to Earth. Luna 3 (October 1959) rounded the Moon later that year, and returned the first photographs of its far side, which can never be seen from Earth.[4] This was Luna's only successful flyby, out of three tries from October 1959 to April 1960.

The United States launched two lunar flyby probes as part of its Pioneer program. Pioneer 3, launched on December 6, 1958, failed to reach the Moon. Pioneer 4 succeeded in flying by the Moon on March 6, 1959 and achieved a heliocentric orbit.

Soft landers[edit]

Soft landers require rocket propulsion to slow its speed sufficiently to prevent the craft's destruction. It can continue to transmit pictures from the surface, and possibly dig into the lunar soil or return other information about the lunar environment. Luna 9 (February 1966) became the first probe to achieve a soft landing on another planetary body. It transmitted five black and white stereoscopic circular panoramas, which were the first close-up shots of the lunar surface.[3] Two successful soft landings were achieved out of thirteen attempts from January 1963 to December 1966.

The United States competed with the Luna landers by the Surveyor programme, which performed five successful landings out of seven attempts from June 1966 to January 1968.

Orbiters[edit]

Orbiter spacecraft require less thrust and propellant than landers, but still require enough to achieve lunar orbit insertion. Luna 10 (March 1966) became the first artificial satellite of the Moon.[4] Luna flew six successful orbiters out of eight attempts from March 1966 to May 1974.

The United States attempted a series of seven lunar orbiter probes as part of its Pioneer program from August 1958 to December 1960; all (Pioneer 0, Pioneer 1, Pioneer 2, Pioneer P-1, Pioneer P-3, Pioneer P-30, and Pioneer P-31) were failures. Later, the US successfully flew five Lunar Orbiter spacecraft from August 1966 to August 1967, to map 99% of the lunar surface and help select landing sites for the Apollo crewed landing programme.

Rovers[edit]

Model of Lunokhod vehicle

More sophisticated soft lander craft can deploy wheeled vehicles to explore a wider area of the lunar surface than the immediate landing site. The first attempted Lunokhod failed in February 1969. Luna 17 (November 1970) and Luna 21 (January 1973) carried Lunokhod vehicles, which were the first robotic wheeled vehicles to explore the Moon's terrain.[4] Lunokhod 1 travelled 10.5 km (6.5 miles) in 322 days and returned more than 20,000 television images and 206 high-resolution panoramas.[5] Lunokhod 2 operated for about four months, covered 42 km (26 miles) of terrain,[6] A third Lunokhod was built and intended for launch in 1977, but never flew due to lack of launchers and funding.[7]

The United States landed crewed rovers (Lunar Roving Vehicles) on Apollo 15 (July–August 1971), Apollo 16 (April 1972), and Apollo 17 (December 1972). Apollo 15 covered 27.9 km (17.3 miles); Apollo 16 covered 26.7 km (16.6 miles), and Apollo 17 covered 35.74 km (22.2 miles).

Sample return[edit]

Luna 16 sample return probe

More complex soft lander craft can robotically scoop up a small amount of lunar material, lift off from the surface, and return the material to Earth. Luna 16 (September 1970), Luna 20 (February 1972) and Luna 24 (August 1976), returned samples of lunar soil to Earth.[4] A total of 301 g (10.6 oz) of soil sample was returned from the three missions.

The United States achieved lunar sample return with crewed lunar landings on the Apollo programme, which successfully landed six two-man crews out of seven attempts from July 1969 to December 1972. A total of 380.96 kg (839.87 lb) of human-selected rocks and soil was returned to Earth.[8]

Luna 15 (July 1969) flew at the same time as the Apollo 11 mission. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had already performed the first crewed lunar landing when Luna 15 began its descent, and the spacecraft crashed into a mountain minutes later.

Failed missions[edit]

While the programme was active, it was Soviet practice not to release any details of missions which had failed to achieve orbit. This resulted in Western observers assigning their own designations to the missions. For example, Luna E-1 No.1, the first failure of 1958 which NASA believed was associated with the Luna programme, was known as Luna 1958A.[9]

Luna Competing United States programmes
Type First attempt Attempts First success Successes Rate First attempt Attempts First success Successes Rate
Impactor Sep 23, 1958 6 Luna 2
Sep 13, 1959
1 16.7% Ranger 1
Aug 23, 1961
9 Ranger 6
Feb 2, 1964
4 44.4%
Flyby Luna 3
Oct 6, 1959
3 Luna 3 1 33.3% Pioneer 3
Dec 6, 1958
2 Pioneer 4
Mar 6, 1959
1 50.0%
Soft lander Jan 4, 1963 13 Luna 9
Feb 3, 1966
2 15.4% Surveyor 1
June 2, 1966
7 Surveyor 1 5 71.4%
Orbiter Mar 1, 1966 8 Luna 10
Apr 3, 1966
6 75.0% Pioneer 0
Aug 17, 1958
12 Lunar Orbiter 1
Aug 18, 1966
5 41.7%
Rover Feb 19, 1969 3 Luna 17
Nov 17, 1970
2 66.7% Apollo 15
July 31, 1971
3 Apollo 15 3 100.0%
Sample return June 14, 1969 11 Luna 16
Sep 24, 1970
3 27.3% Apollo 11
July 24, 1969
7 Apollo 11 6 85.7%
Total 44 15 34.1% Total 40 24 60.0%

Mission details[edit]

Public name Internal name Mission Launch date Carrier rocket Outcome Remarks
N/A E-1 No.1 Impactor September 23, 1958 Luna Launch failure Failed to orbit
N/A E-1 No.2 Impactor October 11, 1958 Luna Launch failure Failed to orbit
N/A E-1 No.3 Impactor December 4, 1958 Luna Launch failure Failed to orbit
Luna 1 E-1 No.4 Impactor January 2, 1959 Luna Launch failure Also known as Mechta; placed onto incorrect trajectory, flew past the Moon without impacting; first spacecraft to escape geocentric orbit
N/A E-1A No.1 Impactor June 18, 1959 Luna Launch failure Failed to orbit
Luna 2 E-1A No.2 Impactor September 12, 1959 Luna Successful Impacted Palus Putredinis (29.10 N, 0.00 E) on the Moon on September 14, 1959 at ~07:30:00 UT. First man-made object to reach the Moon.
Luna 3 E-2A No.1 Flyby October 4, 1959 Luna Successful Took first photographs of the far side of the Moon.
N/A E-3 No.1 Flyby April 15, 1960 Luna Launch failure Failed to orbit
N/A E-3 No.2 Flyby April 16, 1960 Luna Launch failure Failed to orbit
N/A E-6 No.2 Lander January 4, 1963 Molniya-L Launch failure Never left LEO
N/A E-6 No.3 Lander February 3, 1963 Molniya-L Launch failure Failed to orbit
Luna 4 E-6 No.4 Lander April 2, 1963 Molniya-L Spacecraft failure Failed to perform course correction manoeuvre; flew past the Moon
N/A E-6 No.6 Lander March 21, 1964 Molniya-M Launch failure Failed to orbit
N/A E-6 No.5 Lander April 20, 1964 Molniya-M Launch failure Failed to orbit
Kosmos 60 E-6 No.9 Lander March 12, 1965 Molniya-L Launch failure Never left LEO, decayed five days later
N/A E-6 No.8 Lander April 10, 1965 Molniya-L Launch failure Failed to orbit
Luna 5 E-6 No.10 Lander May 9, 1965 Molniya-M Spacecraft failure Failed to decelerate; impacted Mare Nubium
Luna 6 E-6 No.7 Lander June 8, 1965 Molniya-M Spacecraft failure Failed to perform course correction manoeuvre; flew past the Moon
Luna 7 E-6 No.11 Lander October 4, 1965 Molniya Spacecraft failure Attitude control failure; impacted Oceanus Procellarum
Luna 8 E-6 No.12 Lander December 3, 1965 Molniya Spacecraft failure Attitude control failure; impacted Oceanus Procellarum
Luna 9 E-6 No.13 Lander January 31, 1966 Molniya-M Successful Landed in Oceanus Procellarum (7.08 N, 295.63 E) 18:44:52 UT on February 3, 1966
Kosmos 111 E-6S No.204 Orbiter March 1, 1966 Molniya-M Launch failure Never left LEO, decayed two days later
Luna 10 E-6S No.206 Orbiter March 31, 1966 Molniya-M Successful
Luna 11 E-6LF No.101 Orbiter August 24, 1966 Molniya-M Successful
Luna 12 E-6LF No.102 Orbiter October 22, 1966 Molniya-M Successful
Luna 13 E-6M No.205 Lander December 21, 1966 Molniya-M Successful Landed in Oceanus Procellarum (18.87 N, 297.95 E) 18:01:00 UT on December 24, 1966
N/A E-6LS No.112 Orbiter February 7, 1968 Molniya-M Launch failure Failed to orbit
Luna 14 E-6LS No.113 Orbiter April 7, 1968 Molniya-M Successful
N/A E-8 No.201 Rover February 19, 1969 Proton-K/D Launch failure First attempt to launch Lunokhod. Failed to orbit, Lunokhod destroyed.
N/A E-8-5 No.402 Sample return June 14, 1969 Proton-K/D Launch failure Failed to orbit
Luna 15 E-8-5 No.401 Sample return July 13, 1969 Proton-K/D Spacecraft failure Entered selenocentric orbit successfully, failed during descent on 21 July 1969; impacted the Moon while Apollo 11 was on the surface
Kosmos 300 E-8-5 No.403 Sample return September 23, 1969 Proton-K/D Launch failure Never left LEO, decayed four days later
Kosmos 305 E-8-5 No.404 Sample return October 22, 1969 Proton-K/D Launch failure Never left LEO, decayed two days later
N/A E-8-5 No.405 Sample return February 6, 1970 Proton-K/D Launch failure Failed to orbit
Luna 16 E-8-5 No.406 Sample return September 12, 1970 Proton-K/D Successful Landed in Mare Fecunditatis (0.68 S, 56.30 E) at 05:18:00 UT on September 20, 1970. Sample returned to Earth on September 24, 1970
Luna 17 E-8 No.203 Rover November 10, 1970 Proton-K/D Successful Landed in Mare Imbrium (38.28 N, 325.00 E) at 03:47:00 UT on November 17, 1970. Deployed Lunokhod 1
Luna 18 E-8-5 No.407 Sample return September 2, 1971 Proton-K/D Spacecraft failure Entered selenocentric orbit successfully, failed during descent; impacted Mare Fecunditatis (3.57 N, 50.50 E)
Luna 19 E-8LS No.202 Orbiter September 28, 1971 Proton-K/D Successful
Luna 20 E-8-5 No.408 Sample return February 14, 1972 Proton-K/D Successful Landed in Mare Fecunditatis (3.57 N, 56.50 E) at 19:19:00 UT on February 21, 1972. Sample returned to Earth on February 25, 1972
Luna 21 E-8 No.204 Rover January 8, 1973 Proton-K/D Successful Landed in Le Monnier (25.85 N, 30.45 E) at 23:35:00 UT on January 15, 1973. Deployed Lunokhod 2
Luna 22 E-8LS No.206 Orbiter May 29, 1974 Proton-K/D Successful
Luna 23 E-8-5M No.410 Sample return October 28, 1974 Proton-K/D Spacecraft failure Landed in Mare Crisium, fell over upon landing
N/A E-8-5M No.412 Sample return October 16, 1975 Proton-K/D Launch failure Failed to orbit, intended to return a sample from Mare Crisium
Luna 24 E-8-5M No.413 Sample return August 9, 1976 Proton-K/D Successful Landed in Mare Crisium (12.25 N, 62.20 E) at 02:00:00 UT on August 18, 1976. Sample returned to Earth on August 22, 1976

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Zak, Anatoly. "Planetary Spacecraft – Moon Missions". RussianSpaceWeb.com.
  2. ^ "Comparison of US and Estimated Soviet Expenditures for Space Programs" (PDF). CIA. August 1964.
  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. 1. ISBN 9781626830424. LCCN 2017059404. SP2018-4041.
  4. ^ a b c d e 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. 2. ISBN 9781626830424. LCCN 2017059404. SP2018-4041.
  5. ^ "Lunokhod 1 Panoramas". planetology.ru. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
  6. ^ Wall, Mike (July 11, 2013). "NASA Moon Probe Helps Revise Off-Planet Driving Record | Lunokhod 2". Space.com. Retrieved July 12, 2013.
  7. ^ Chaikin, Andy (February–March 2004). "The Other Moon Landings". Air & Space. Archived from the original on May 11, 2014.
  8. ^ Orloff, Richard W. (September 2004) [First published 2000]. "Extravehicular Activity". Apollo by the Numbers: A Statistical Reference. NASA History Division, Office of Policy and Plans. The NASA History Series. Washington, D.C.: NASA. ISBN 978-0-16-050631-4. LCCN 00061677. NASA SP-2000-4029. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
  9. ^ Williams, David R. "Tentative IDs". NASA Space Science Data Coordinated Archive. Retrieved August 3, 2010.

External links[edit]