Luna program

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With Luna 4 to Luna 24 ( Russian Луна , Latin and Russian for moon ) Soviet lunar probes of the second series (1963-1976) were designated. The probes of the previous series are also called Lunik 1 to 3 in the West . Luna 25 to Luna 29 are planned or proposed follow-up missions.

Some failed Luna missions were labeled satellites (in the case of reaching Earth orbit) and given Sputnik - or Kosmos - deck names. The probes that did not even reach Earth orbit were given no official designation. They therefore have names such as: B. Luna 1964A. However, some space flights undertaken to test landing maneuvers took place in the Zond program.

Early landings

Luna 9
Luna 9 and image of the lunar surface (USSR postage stamp from 1966)

The aim of missions Luna 4 to 9 (probes of the E-6 series) was to place a probe softly on the surface of the moon. Before this succeeded with Luna 9, numerous setbacks had to be accepted.

The first probes of the E-6 series ( Sputnik 25 and Luna 1963A ) started in early 1963, but it was not until the third attempt with Luna 4 , started on April 2, 1963, to leave Earth orbit at all. However, the high school put the probe in a wrong orbit, causing the probe to miss the moon at a distance of 8,336.2 km. Another four false starts ( Luna 1964A , Luna 1964B , Kosmos 60 and Luna 1965A ) later, Luna 5 , launched on May 9, 1965, could be sent on its way to the moon. However, the probe crashed on the moon on May 12 after the ground station lost control of the main engine. The cause was uncontrollable rotation of the probe. Luna 6 (launched June 6, 1965) missed the moon 159,218 km away when it was corrected in the wrong direction. At Luna 7 (start: October 4, 1965) the attitude control system failed before landing, so that the ignition of the brake engine failed. At Luna 8 (launch: December 3, 1965) the probe started rotating nine seconds after the brake engine had been ignited and hit the moon hard.

On February 3, 1966, the successful landing of Luna 9 (start: January 31, 1966) in Oceanus Procellarum finally resulted in the first soft landing on the moon in the history of space travel . The probe measured the radiation on the lunar surface and sent panoramas of the lunar surface back to earth. The lander worked until the batteries ran out on February 6, 1966. This technical achievement also had a political dimension, as the Soviet Union emerged victorious from the race with the USA for the first soft moon landing.

An instrumentally improved version of Luna 9 was Luna 13 (E-6M). This probe landed on the moon on December 24, 1966. The Luna 4–9 and 13 probes weighed between 1446 and 1620 kg each at launch. After landing, the lander only weighed 90–113 kg. The probes were launched with Molnija rockets.

Early lunar orbiters

The probes Luna 10, 11, 12 and 14 (series E-6S, E-6LF and E-6LS) were lunar orbiters that used the bus of the landing probes of the series E-6, but instead of a lander carried a section with instruments. Like the lander, the orbiters were battery operated, which limited active time in orbit to a few weeks. These probes were also launched with Molnija missiles.

The first launch of an E-6S orbiter took place on March 1, 1966, but the upper stage of the rocket failed, so that the probe under the code name Kosmos 111 remained in earth orbit.

Model of Luna 10

The second E-6S launch succeeded a little later and Luna 10 was the first space probe to enter a lunar orbit on April 3, 1966. The experiments on board measured the moon's magnetic field and detected micrometeorites and particles. The changes in the orbit made it possible to infer mass concentrations in the lunar crust for the first time. On April 4, 1966, at the end of the 23rd Congress of the CPSU, a program (tone sequence of the International ) was to be broadcast by Luna 10. However, as was noted shortly before, the specially developed synthesizer that was carried along was missing a sound, so that a recording of a successful test of the previous night was recorded without further ado.

Luna 11 was an orbiter of the improved E-6LF series and was launched on August 24, 1966. The months since the launch of Luna 10 have been used to improve the instrumentation. Luna 11 carried a film camera. The film was developed and digitized on board. However, the experiment was canceled due to problems with the alignment of the camera. The probe transmitted data from the lunar orbit up to October 31, 1966. The repetition of this mission with Luna 12 , started on October 22, 1966, was successful.

In 1968 there were two more launches with the aim of putting an orbiter (series E-6LS) into lunar orbit. The first launch ( Luna 1968A ) ended with the crash of the launcher, but on the second on April 7, 1968, the Luna 14 probe successfully reached lunar orbit. Among other things, the probe was used to test the communication system for the manned Soviet lunar program and to carry out other scientific experiments.

Return probes

Luna 16

Until then, the Soviet Union used the Molnija rocket with a maximum payload of around 1600 kg for lunar probes. For the next series, however, the much stronger Proton should be used, which could carry around 6000 kg to the moon. The aim of the first missions - consisting of Luna 15, 16, 18, 20, 23 and 24 (series E-8-5 and E-8-5M) - was to bring samples of moon rocks back to Earth. The probes consisted of a landing stage and a re-launch stage with a small landing capsule. The moon landing should not take place directly, but the probes should first swing into a lunar orbit, which was then changed over a few days so that the next point of the orbit was above the landing area, from where the probe was then lowered to the surface and its remaining speed should be further reduced by a rocket engine. After the landing, a drill was supposed to take a soil sample and transfer it to the return capsule, whereupon the return launch would take place directly to earth and the return capsule, braked by a parachute, would descend in the Soviet Union. This plan was successful in three missions, with around 39 kg of the approx. 5600-5720 kg launch mass returning to Earth, and of this approx. 100-200 g being accounted for by the soil samples.

The first E-8-5 series return probes were supposed to bring back lunar rocks before the Americans. The first launch on June 14, 1969 ( Luna 1969B ) failed due to the failure of the Proton rocket. The next probe, Luna 15 , was launched three days before the Apollo 11 mission on July 13, 1969, but hit hard when attempting to land on July 21, 1969, one day after the American moon landing. Three other probes that were launched in September and October 1969 and February 1970 ( Kosmos 300 , Kosmos 305 and Luna 1970A ) remained in orbit due to malfunctions of the Proton rocket or did not even reach it. Since it was no longer possible to be the first to bring moon samples to earth, the next launch was taken and the probe was revised. Luna 16 (launched on September 12, 1970) was the first Soviet mission to bring back lunar rocks. Luna 18 , launched on September 2, 1971, fell silent on landing and may have tipped over in inaccessible terrain or was damaged on landing. Luna 20 (launched on February 14, 1972) landed about 1,800 m from Luna 18 and collected 55 g soil samples as the drill could only penetrate 15 cm.

To extract more rock, an improved drill was developed that could drill up to 2 m deep. The probes equipped with it were given the designation E-8-5M. Luna 23 , launched on October 28, 1974, landed successfully, but the drill was damaged when it landed, meaning that no soil samples were obtained. A return of the lander was therefore waived. As an asteroid-like object 2010 KQ , it is assumed that the fourth stage of the launch rocket orbits the sun.

The next launch on October 16, 1975 ended with the crash of the launcher ( Luna 1975A ). The last Soviet return probe of the Luna series, Luna 24 (launched on August 9, 1976, landing at Mare Crisium on August 18, returning to Earth on August 22), brought 170 g of lunar rock back to Earth .

Moon rover and later moon orbiters

Lunochod 1

By omitting the reset stage, the lower stage of the return probes of the E-8-5 series could also bring a larger payload to the moon. This was used three times to transport a lunar rover . These probes were named E-8.

The first launch of a moon rover took place on February 19, 1969, before the first launch of an E-8-5 probe. However, the payload fairing of the Proton launcher collapsed after about a minute of flight time, which resulted in the destruction of the rocket and its payload. The launch was kept secret for a long time and was later given the international name Luna 1969A .

Luna 17 brought Lunochod 1 to the moon on November 17, 1970 . Lunochod was controlled remotely from Earth. Television cameras transmitted images of the surroundings for navigation. High-resolution panoramas of the area were taken at regular intervals. The lunar soil was examined by penetrometer and X-ray fluorescence spectrometer . Lunochod 1 weighed 756 kg, was 1.35 m high, 2.21 m long and 2.15 m wide. The central part was a nitrogen-filled container in which the technical equipment was located. The solar cells in the lid provided energy. A small amount of polonium -210, which decays with a half-life of 138 days and gives off heat in the process, protected against cooling down during the moonlit night . During the 322 days that Lunochod 1 was active, he covered 10.54 km. The probe took around 20,000 images and 206 panoramas. The penetrometer measured the physical properties of the moon's surface at 500 points. The surface was examined at 25 points with an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. 80,000 m² of the surface were examined or captured in the picture. The probe failed because the heat given off by the polonium sources had dropped to a seventh after almost three half-lives.

Lunochod 2 was brought to the moon by Luna 21 on January 15, 1973. Although this mission lasted only five months, this Lunochod, which was a little heavier at 840 kg, covered 37 km. The probe had to be abandoned after it drove into a crater and the solar cells were covered in dust so that there was no longer enough power to operate.

Lunochod 3 was planned for 1977 together with Luna 25 . To this day it is not known why this mission was not started.

The probes Luna 19 and Luna 22 (series E-8LS) launched in 1971 and 1974, i.e. before and after Lunochod 2, were lunar orbiters in which a lunochod without wheels was brought into a lunar orbit and equipped with further experiments. A radar altimeter measured the profile of the surface, a gamma ray spectrometer detected ionizing radiation from the decay of potassium, uranium and thorium, and a panorama camera recorded stripes of the moon's surface with a resolution of 100 m × 400 m.

Luna 19 was launched on September 28, 1971 and worked in orbit until October 20, 1972. It was followed as the last Soviet lunar orbit on May 29, 1974 by Luna 22, who was active in lunar orbit until September 2, 1975.

Luna 26 (Luna Resurs Orbiter)


Russia is planning some lunar probes in the future to continue the Luna program from the Soviet era. Luna 25 , Luna 26 and Luna 27 should start to the moon in 2021, 2024 and 2025. Luna 25 and Luna 27 should land, Luna 26 orbit the moon. A landing in the South Pole Aitken Basin is planned for Luna 27, in which the European Space Agency participates with instruments for investigating water ice deposits. Luna 28 is a proposed return mission for lunar samples for 2026–2027, Luna 29 is a proposed rover mission for 2029.

See also


Web links

Commons : Luna program  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Anatoly Zak: Soviet probe plays communist anthem from the Moon , accessed Jan. 4, 2019
  2. ^ Man-made object spotted with FTN.
  3. Archive of the space missions: Luna 24. German Aerospace Center , accessed on August 16, 2021 .
  4. Интервью Владимира Колмыкова . Roscosmos, April 14, 2020.
  5. ^ Prospecting on the Moon: Russia, Europe to Hunt for Lunar Ice. In: August 29, 2018. Retrieved August 25, 2019 .
  6. Russia's sample mission to Moon scheduled for 2026-2027. TASS, October 8, 2019, accessed October 8, 2019 .
  7. Anatoly Zak: Luna-Grunt (Lunar Sample Return / Luna-28) mission. In: Russian Space Web. Retrieved April 27, 2019 .
  8. ^ Anatoly Zak: New Lunokhod is in the works. In: Russian Space Web. Retrieved on May 10, 2021 (access only for chargeable registered users).