Zarya - Soviet, Russian and International Spaceflight
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Luna - Exploring the Moon


Scarborough, UK
2014 Apr 18
Friday, Day 108

Maintained by:





Selected Luna Missions:















Elsewhere:

A different view from Ian Ridpath

Summarised by Don P Mitchell


History

Once the Soviet Union, under the design leadership of Sergei Korolyov, had got the space exploration under way with Sputnik, it aimed for higher and more-prestigious targets including the Moon and the planets Venus and Mars.

In 1955, Sergei Korolyov put forward a plan to build a multi-stage version of the R-7 rocket which would be capable of sending a payload to the Moon which would be capable of landing on the surface or going into orbit around it. On 28 January 1958, the plan became a formal proposal and by the end of the year, the first launch - albeit unsuccessful - had taken place.

Early Probing - Luna 1, 2 and 3 (1958-1960)

Initial attempts consisted of trying to hit the Moon with an Earth-launched spacecraft and to fly round it, taking photographs of the farside (never before seen by human beings as the Moon orbits the Earth with one face constantly pointing towards it). There was even a proposal to include a nuclear warhead in the payload of a lunar impact spacecraft so that Earth-bound observers could observe the flash of explosion at the moment when it crashed into the surface. There would then be no doubt that the event had happened. The mission never came near to fruition.

All launches in this period used a version of the Vostok rocket, later utilised to orbit the Earth's first piloted spacecraft fom where it took its name. They were launched into direct ascent trajectories taking them directly from the surface of the Earth to the vicinity of the Moon.

Proof of Technology - Luna 4 through Luna 14 (1963-1968)

Once the early programme of guiding a spacecraft to the Moon had proved the concept, attentions were turning to setting a probe gently down onto the Moon in order to take photographs and to make limited measurements of the composition of its surface. Plans also existed to place spacecraft into orbit around the Moon.

These missions needed a more powerful launching vehicle, and the multi-stage Molniya rocket came to the fore - used for both lunar and planetary exploration missions. Another change was a move away from a direct trajectory to one where the spacecraft and its final rocket stage were first placed into a low orbit around the Earth. A little over an hour after launch, a rocket motor was fired to send the craft into a path towards the Moon.

Rocket motors aboard the probes themselves were used while en-route to the Moon to apply small corrections to the trajectory, with the aim of avoiding the near-miss scenario of Luna 1, though this was not always successful (see Luna 4 and Luna 6).

It took many failed attempts and three years of effort before this part of the Luna programme bore fruit, but eventually Luna 9 and Luna 10 respectively became the first craft to land on, and the first to orbit, the Moon in 1966.

The diary below includes the mission of Zond 3, an interplanetary spacecraft which had missed a launch window to Venus during November 1964. It was used as an engineering test for spacecraft systems and took photographs of the lunar farside during 1965 July. It then went into an orbit around the Sun which took it out to the distance of Mars.

The missions of Zond 4, Zond 5 and Zond 6, which took place during this time frame, are not included here as they were tests of spacecraft to be used in the Soviet Union's piloted lunar exploration programme.

All launches in this period used a version of the Vostok rocket, later utilised to orbit the Earth's first piloted spacecraft fom where it took its name. They were launched into direct ascent trajectories taking them directly from the surface of the Earth to the vicinity of the Moon.

Exploring the Moon - Luna 15 through Luna 24 (1969-1976)

Luna 19From the mid-1960s the race to the Moon against the United States was on. Early Moon landers and orbiters paralleled the American approach of surveying the Moon and its surrounding space. However, when the US concentrated its efforts on getting an Apollo spacecraft and its crew to the Moon, the Soviet Union was developing a range of both piloted and automatic lunar explorers.

Being heavier than the landers and orbiters of the early 1960s, these later probes were designed around the lifting capabilities of the four-stage version of the Proton rocket. Like their immediate predecessors, their journeys to the Moon started with being launched into orbit around the Earth. Both the orbiters and the landers in this series then went into orbit around the Moon. This allowed more precision in selection of landing point. Even so, two of the five landers sustained damage on touchdown and were unable to send soil samples back to Earth.

The race took on a new form during July 1969 - two technologies came head to head in competition. Even as Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were orbiting the Moon in Apollo 11, Luna 15 was heading for the surface in an attempt to be the first to bring back the first ever sample of lunar soil. In the event the spacecraft crashed as it tried to land. Even had Luna 15 succeeded, it would not have reached Earth again before the American vehicle, so the honour of carrying back the first lunar sample would still have been Apollo 11's.

Date Time (UTC) Event
1958 Jan 28 Sergei Korolyov proposes a programme of lunar exploration missions including impact on the Moon and photographing its surface
1958 Sep 23 07:03 E-1-1 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Vostok rocket on a mission to hit the Moon by way of direct ascent trajectory - its launcher disintegrates after 93 seconds
1958 Oct 11 21:42 E-1-2 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Vostok rocket on a mission to hit the Moon by way of direct ascent trajectory - its launcher disintegrates after 42 seconds
1958 Dec 4 17:18 E-1-3 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Vostok rocket on a mission to hit the Moon by way of direct ascent trajectory - its launcher core-stage rocket engine shuts down after 245 seconds
1959 Jan 2 16:41 Luna 1 (E-1-4) spacecraft, also known as 'Mechta' (Dream) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Vostok rocket on a mission to hit the Moon by way of a direct ascent trajectory
1959 Jan 3 00:56 At a distance of 113,000 kilometres from Earth, the upper stage of Luna 1 launching rocket releases a cloud of sodium vapour, the glow from which is used to aid visual measurement of the trajectory - it is photographed from an observatory near Alma-Ata
1959 Jan 4 02:59 Luna 1 passes 5,995 km from the Moon at a speed near 8,900 kilometres per hour and enters heliocentric orbit, thereby becoming the first artificial planet of the Sun
1959 Jan 4 06:00 Luna 1 is 426,700 kilometres from Earth and 60,400 kilometres beyond the Moon
1959 Jan 4 19:00 Luna 1 is 513,285 kilometres from Earth
1959 Jan 5 07:00 Approx time - Luna 1 radio transmitter ceases to operate when the batteries run out of power at a distance of 600,000 kilometres from the Earth
1959 Jun 18 08:08 E-1-5 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Vostok rocket on a mission to hit the Moon by way of a direct ascent trajectory - a failure of the inertial guidance system 153 seconds after lift-off leads to the rocket being deliberately destroyed
1959 Sep 6 00:49 Scheduled launch attempt for Luna 2 (E-1-6) - the launch is aborted
1959 Sep 8 02:40 Scheduled launch attempt for Luna 2 (E-1-6) - the launch is aborted
1959 Sep 9 03:40 Scheduled launch attempt for Luna 2 (E-1-6) - the launch is aborted
1959 Sep 12 06:39 Luna 2 (E-1-6) spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Vostok rocket on a mission to hit the Moon by way of a direct ascent trajectory
1959 Sep 12 12:00 Luna 2 is 126,400 kilometres from Earth above a point to the north of New Guinea
1959 Sep 12 18:39 En-route to the Moon, the upper stage of Luna 2 launching rocket releases a cloud of sodium vapour, the glow from which is used to aid visual measurement of the trajectory - it is observed in the constellation Aquarius at a stellar magnitude between 4 and 5
1959 Sep 13 21:02 Luna 2 impacts on the Moon at a speed of three kilometres per second near 30 degrees north, 1 degree west, in the Palus Putredinis
1959 Sep 13 21:32 Approximate time - Luna 2 final rocket stage impacts on the Moon
1959 Oct 4 00:43 Luna 3 (E-2A-1) spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Vostok rocket on a mission to fly past and photograph the Moon by way of direct ascent trajectory.
1959 Oct 6 14:16 Luna 3 passes 6,200 km from the Moon
1959 Oct 7 03:30 Luna 3 photographs the hidden side of the Moon from an altitude of 65,200 km altitude - its camera system takes a series of 29 photographs over a period 40 minutes, covering 70% of the surface - film is developed automatically aboard the spacecraft and is then scanned to allow radio transmission of the images
1959 Oct 10 Luna 3 reaches a distance of 480,000 kilometres from the Earth
1959 Oct 18 Luna 3 is back in the vicinity of Earth and transmits 17 of its photographs in facsimile format - a later attempt at re-transmission fails when signals are not received
1959 Oct 18 15:50 Luna 3 completes its first orbit of the Earth-Moon system
1960 Mar 29 Combined gravitational effects on the trajectory of Luna 3 cause it to re-enter the Earth atmosphere where it is destroyed by frictional heating. It has completed 11 revolutions around the center of the Earth-Moon system (the barycentre)
1960 Apr 15 15:06 E-3-1 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Vostok rocket on a mission to hit the Moon by way of a direct ascent trajectory - under-performance of the final rocket stage means that it has insufficient velocity to reach the Moon
1960 Apr 16 E-3-1 spacecraft reaches a distance of 200,000 kilometres from the Earth and then falls back
1960 Apr 16 E-3-1 spacecraft re-enters the Earth atmosphere where it is destroyed by frictional heating
1960 Apr 19 16:07 E-3-2 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Vostok rocket on a mission to hit the Moon by way of a direct ascent trajectory - the launcher breaks up just after lift-off due to incorrect thrust from one of its strap-on boosters
1963 Jan 4 08:49 E-6-1 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into low orbit around the Earth at 64.9 degrees inclination - it mission is to soft land a camera module onto the lunar surface
1963 Jan 4 09:55 E-6-1 lunar spacecraft final stage rocket engine fails to fire, leaving it stranded in Earth orbit
1963 Jan 5 E-6-1 lunar spacecraft re-enters the Earth atmosphere and is destroyed by frictional heating.
1963 Feb 3 09:29 E-6-2 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket towards a low orbit around the Earth at 65 degrees inclination - it mission is to soft land a camera module onto the lunar surface but control of the rocket is lost 295 seconds after lift-off and it is destroyed.
1963 Apr 2 08:16 Luna 4 (E-6-3) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into low orbit around the Earth at 65 degrees inclination - it mission is to soft land a camera module onto the lunar surface
1963 Apr 2 09:34 Final stage of Luna 4 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1963 Apr 3 Luna 4 rocket engine fails to fire for a trajectory correction so the spacecraft stays on a course which will miss the Moon
1963 Apr 6 01:26 Luna 4 passes 8,336 kilometres from the Moon - it enters barycentric orbit at distances ranging between 89,250 and 694,000 kilometres from Earth
1963 May 9 08:56 Final stage of Luna 5 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1964 Mar 21 08:15 E-6-4 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket towards a low orbit around the Earth at 65 degrees inclination - it mission is to soft land on the lunar surface but problems with the third-stage of its rocket prevent it from reaching orbit
1964 Apr 20 08:08 E-6-5 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket towards a low orbit around the Earth at 65 degrees inclination. It mission is to soft land a camera module onto the lunar surface - it fails to reach orbit
1965 Mar 12 09:36 Cosmos 60 (lunar spacecraft E-6-9) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into 195 x 248 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 64.7 degrees inclination - it mission is to soft land a camera module onto the lunar surface but the final stage rocket engine fails to fire, leaving it stranded in Earth orbit
1965 Apr 10 E-6-8 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket towards a low orbit around the Earth at 65 degrees inclination - it mission is to soft land on the lunar surface but problems with the third-stage of its rocket prevent it from reaching orbit
1965 May 9 07:49 Luna 5 (E-6-10) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into approx 150 x 225 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 64.8 degrees inclination - it mission is to soft land a camera module onto the lunar surface
1965 May 12 19:10 Luna 5 retro-rocket fails to fire and it crashes onto the Moon near 31 degrees South, 8 degrees West, in the Mare Nubium area, and a 220 x 80 kilometre dust cloud, which lasts for ten minutes, is noted by an observatory at Rodeswich in Germany - touchdown was planned for 19:15
1965 May 17 Cosmos 60 re-enters the Earth atmosphere and is destroyed by frictional heating
1965 Jun 8 07:40 Luna 6 (E-6-7) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into approx 170 x 250 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 64.8 degrees inclination - it mission is to soft land a camera module onto the lunar surface
1965 Jun 8 08:47 Final stage of Luna 6 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1965 Jun 9 Luna 6 rocket engine fails to shut down as planned at the end of a course-correction manoeuvre so all fuel is exhausted - the spacecraft is consequently in a trajectory which causes it to miss the Moon
1965 Jun 11 17:00 Luna 6 passes 159,613 kilometres from the Moon - it may have gone into orbit around the Sun
1965 Jul 18 14:38 Zond 3 launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into approx 164 x 210 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 64.8 degrees inclination - it mission is an engineering test of an interplanetary spacecraft
1965 Jul 19 23:40 Zond 3 passes 9,200 kilometres behind the Moon and takes a series of 25 photographs of the far side and later transmits them to Earth - it then continues into orbit around the Sun
1965 Oct 4 07:56 Luna 7 (E-6-11) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into 129 x 286 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 64.8 degrees - it mission is to soft land a camera module onto the lunar surface
1965 Oct 4 09:03 Final stage of Luna 7 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1965 Oct 5 Luna 7 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1965 Oct 7 22:08 Luna 7 retro-rocket fires early and after it shuts down, the spacecraft gathers speed and is destroyed as it crashes onto the Moon near 9 degrees north, 40 degrees west in the Oceanus Procellarum
1965 Dec 3 10:46 Luna 8 (E-6-12) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into approx 170 x 250 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.8 degrees inclination - it mission is to soft land a camera module onto the lunar surface
1965 Dec 3 11:53 Final stage of Luna 8 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1965 Dec 4 Luna 8 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1965 Dec 6 21:51 Luna 8 retro-rocket fires late and the spacecraft is destroyed as it crashes onto the Moon near 9.1 degrees north, 63.3 degrees west in the Oceanus procellarum - although the landing is a failure, the mission completes the experimental development of a stellar-orientation system and methods of controlling from the Earth of radio equipment, flight trajectory measuring equipment and other instrumentation
1966 Jan 3 01:40 Approx time - Cosmos 111 re-enters the Earth atmosphere and is destroyed by frictional heating
1966 Jan 31 11:41 Luna 9 (E-6M) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into 167 x 219 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.8 degrees inclination - its mission is to soft land a camera module onto the lunar surface
1966 Jan 31 12:48 Final stage of Luna 9 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Feb 1 19:29 Luna 9 rocket engine is fired for 48 seconds in order to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Feb 3 18:44 Luna 9 soft lands on the Moon surface at 7.13 degrees north, 60.36 degrees west in the Oceanus Procellarum
1966 Feb 4 01:50 Luna 9 transmits the first of three series of TV pictures over a period of 107 minutes which are then assembled into a panoramic view of the landing site
1966 Feb 4 14:00 Luna 9 transmits the first of second series of TV pictures over a period of 174 minutes which are then assembled into a panoramic view of the landing site - they reveal that Luna 9 has shifted its position slightly which permits a stereoscopic view to be built up
1966 Feb 6 20:37 Luna 9 transmits three further series of TV pictures over a period of 138 minutes
1966 Feb 6 22:55 Luna 9 final radio transmission ceases when its batteries are exhausted - it has been in radio contact with Earth for a total of 8 hours and 5 minutes over its three-day period of operation and has returned a total of 27 individual photographs of the lunar surface
1966 Mar 1 11:03 Cosmos 111 (E-6S-204) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into 182 x 194 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.8 degrees inclination - it mission is to enter orbit around the Moon but loss of control of the final rocket stage whilst still in orbit around the Earth prevents its engine from being fired
1966 Mar 31 10:46 Luna 10 (E-6S-206) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into approx 190 x 220 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.8 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon
1966 Mar 31 11:53 Final stage of Luna 10 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Apr 1 Luna 10 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Apr 3 18:44 Luna 10 fires its retro-rocket, after which it enters a 350 x 1,017 kilometre orbit around the Moon at 71.9 degrees inclination
1966 Apr 3 19:00 Luna 10 instrumented payload compartment separates from the flight vehicle and begins its mission to study gamma-radiation, electric and magnetic fields, micro-meteoroids, the solar wind, infrared emissions from the Moon itself, and radiation conditions in the lunar environment
1966 Apr 3 Luna 10 transmits a sythesised rendering of the song 'Internationale' - it is relayed to the Congress of the Communist party of the Soviet Union where it is played to the delegates
1966 May 30 Luna 10 radio transmitters are switched off when battery power becomes too low after 460 orbits around the Moon, and 219 active data transmissions - its orbit is 378 x 985 kilometres at 72.0 degrees inclination
1966 Aug 24 08:03 Luna 11 (E-6LF-101) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into approx 195 x 220 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.9 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon
1966 Aug 24 09:10 Final stage of Luna 11 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Aug 26 19:02 Luna 11 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Aug 28 21:49 Luna 11 enters a 160 v 1,200 kilometre orbit around the Moon at 27 degrees inclination and begins its studies of lunar gamma and X-ray emissions in order to determine the Moon chemical composition, lunar gravitational anomalies, the concentration of meteoroid streams near the Moon and the intensity of hard corpuscular radiation near the Moon - although intended to return photographs of the Moon surface, it fails to do so
1966 Oct 1 02:03 Luna 11 batteries fail and radio transmissions cease after 277 orbits around the Moon and 137 active data transmission s,
1966 Oct 22 08:42 Luna 12 (E-6LF-102) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into approx 199 x 212 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.9 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon
1966 Oct 22 09:45 Final stage of Luna 12 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Oct 23 19:10 Approx time - Luna 12 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Oct 25 20:45 Approx time - Luna 12 enters a 100 x 1,740 kilometre orbit at 10 degrees inclination and begins its mission of photographing the lunar surface in the area of the likely landing zone of a piloted mission - each photograph contains 1100 scan lines with a maximum resolution of 15-20 metres - it also carries a test version of the electric motor being developed to drive the upcoming Lunokhod lunar rover
1966 Oct 27 Luna 12 transmits to Earth its first images of the Moon surface
1966 Dec 21 10:16 Luna 13 (E-6M-205) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into 171 x 223 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.8 degrees inclination - its mission is to soft land a camera module onto the lunar surface
1966 Dec 21 11:23 Final stage of Luna 13 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Dec 22 18:41 Luna 13 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Dec 24 17:59 Luna 13 fires its retro-rocket
1966 Dec 24 18:01 Luna 13 soft lands on the Moon surface at 18.87 degrees north, 62.05 degrees west in the Oceanus Procellarum
1966 Dec 24 18:05 Luna 13 begins transmitting from the lunar surface
1966 Dec 24 18:06 An explosive charge forces Luna 13 soil density measuring instrument into the Moon surface
1966 Dec 25 13:53 Luna 13 transmits its first series of TV pictures
1966 Dec 30 Luna 13 batteries fail and radio transmissions cease
1967 Jan 19 Luna 12 batteries fail and radio transmissions cease after 602 orbits around the Moon and 302 active data transmission s
1967 May 16 21:43 Cosmos 159 (E-6LS-111) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into 208 x 395 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.8 degrees inclination - it mission is to test communications and tracking systems
1967 May 16 23:02 Final stage of Cosmos 159 launching rocket fired to place it into an orbit of 350 x 60637 kilometres at 51.6 degrees inclination
1968 Feb 7 10:43 E-6LS-112 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by Molniya rocket, aimed for a low orbit around the Earth at 51.8 degrees inclination - its mission is to test radio communications and spaceraft tracking techniques both en-route and in orbit around the moon in preparation for a piloted lunar mission , but a problem with the launching rocket prevents it from reaching orbit and the spacecraft, together with the upper stages of the rocket, is destroyed as they re-enter the atmosphere
1968 Apr 7 10:09 Luna 14 (E-6LS-113) spacecraft launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by Molniya rocket, aimed for a low orbit around the Earth at 51.8 degrees inclination - its mission is to test radio communications and spaceraft tracking techniques both en-route and in orbit around the moon in preparation for a piloted lunar mission
1968 Apr 7 11:16 Final stage of Luna 14 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1968 Apr 8 19:27 Luna 14 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1968 Apr 10 19:25 Luna 14 enters 140 x 870 kilometre orbit around the Moon at 42 degrees inclination - in addition to its test role in connection with the piloted lunar programme, it carries instruments to study the Moon gravitational field and the Earth-Moon gravitational relationship, the solar wind and cosmic rays - it also carries a test version of the electric motor being developed to drive the upcoming Lunokhod lunar rover
1969 Feb 19 06:48 E-8-201 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket towards a low orbit around the Earth at 51.6 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon and then land a Lunokhod remote-controlled roving vehicle on its surface but the launcher is destroyed by an explosion
1969 Jun 14 04:00 E-8-5-402 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket towards a low orbit around the Earth at 51.6 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon, then land and return a soil sample to Earth but it fails to reach orbit after the launcher third stage fails to fire
1969 Jul 13 03:14 Luna 15 (E-8-5-401) launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket into 182 x 247 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.5 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon, then land and return a soil sample to Earth
1969 Jul 13 04:24 Final stage of Luna 15 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1969 Jul 14 Luna 15 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1969 Jul 17 10:00 Luna 15 enters 240 x 870 kilometre orbit around the Moon at 126 degrees inclination
1969 Jul 19 13:08 Luna 15 rocket engine is fired to change its orbit around the Moon to 95 x 222 kilometres at 126 degrees inclination
1969 Jul 20 14:16 Luna 15 rocket engine is fired to change its orbit around the Moon to 16 x 110 kilometres at 127 degrees inclination
1969 Jul 20 15:47 After completing 52 orbits of the Moon and holding 86 communications sessions with the Earth, Luna 15 fires its rocket engine and begins its descent towards a landing on the Moon surface
1969 Jul 20 15:51 Luna 15 crashes heavily, at 480 kilometres per hour, near 17 degrees north, 60 degrees east, and is destroyed while attempting to land and collect a soil sample for return to Earth - simultaneously, the crew of Apollo 11 is part way through its lunar exploration programme
1969 Sep 23 14:07 Cosmos 300 (E-8-5-403) launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket into approx 185 x 200 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.5 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon, then land and return a soil sample to Earth but the final stage of the launcher fails to fire, leaving it stranded in orbit around the Earth
1969 Sep 27 Cosmos 300, still attached to the fourth stage of its launching rocket, re-enters the Earth atmosphere and is destroyed by frictional heating
1969 Oct 22 14:09 Cosmos 305 (E-8-5-404) launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket into 175 x 206 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.5 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon, then land and return a soil sample to Earth but the final stage of the launcher fails to fire, leaving it stranded in orbit around the Earth
1969 Oct 24 18:05 Approx time - Cosmos 305, still attached to the fourth stage of its launching rocket, re-enters the Earth atmosphere and is destroyed by frictional heating
1970 Feb 6 04:16 E-8-5-405 spacecraft launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket towards a low orbit around the Earth at 51.5 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon, then land and return a soil sample to Earth, but the launcher fails and the spacecraft fails to reach orbit
1970 Sep 12 13:25 Luna 16 (E-8-5-406) launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket into 185 x 241 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.5 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon, then land and return a soil sample to Earth
1970 Sep 12 14:34 Final stage of Luna 16 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1970 Sep 13 Luna 16 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1970 Sep 16 23:38 Luna 16 fires its rocket engine and and enters a 110 kilometre circular orbit around the Moon at 70 degrees inclination
1970 Sep 18 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 16 orbit around the Moon is 15 x 110 kilometres at 70 degrees inclination
1970 Sep 19 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 16 orbit around the Moon is 15 x 106 kilometres at 71 degrees inclination
1970 Sep 20 03:06 Luna 16 computer takes control of the landing sequence
1970 Sep 20 03:41 Luna 16 orbit takes it behind the Moon for the last time - radio communication is lost
1970 Sep 20 04:31 Luna 16 re-appears from behind the Moon and radio communication is re-established
1970 Sep 20 05:12 Luna 16 fires its rocket engine and begins its descent towards a landing on the Moon surface
1970 Sep 20 05:18 Luna 16 lands on the Moon at 0.68 degrees south, 56.30 degrees east in the Mare Foecundatis
1970 Sep 20 06:30 Luna 16 uses a hollow drill to collect a 35 centimetre long core sample of the lunar surface - the operation takes seven minutes and the sample weighs 101 grammes
1970 Sep 21 07:43 Luna 16 return stage fires its rocket motor and begins its journey back to Earth
1970 Sep 24 01:50 Luna 16 re-entry capsule separates from its spent rocket stage at a distance of 50,000 kilometres from Earth
1970 Sep 24 05:10 Luna 16 re-entry capsule hits the upper layers of the atmosphere
1970 Sep 24 05:14 Luna 16 re-entry capsule deploys its parachute
1970 Sep 24 05:26 Luna 16 re-entry capsule touches down 80 kilometres south-east of Dzhezhkazgan
1970 Nov 10 14:44 Luna 17 (E-8-203) launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket into 192 x 237 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.5 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon and then land the Lunokhod 1 remote-controlled roving vehicle on its surface
1970 Nov 10 15:54 Final stage of Luna 17 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1970 Nov 12 Luna 17 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1970 Nov 14 Luna 17 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1970 Nov 15 22:00 Approx time - Luna 17 enters 85 kilometre circular orbit around the Moon at 141 degrees inclination
1970 Nov 17 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 17 orbit around the Moon is now 19 x 85 kilometres at 141 degrees inclination
1970 Nov 17 03:41 Luna 17 fires its rocket engine and begins its descent towards a landing on the Moon surface
1970 Nov 17 03:47 Luna 17 lands on the Moon at 38.28 degrees north, 35 degrees wast in the Mare Imbrium
1970 Nov 17 04:20 Radio links with the Lunokhod 1 moon rover are established for the first time
1970 Nov 17 05:31 Lunokhod 1 returns its first TV image of the lunar surface
1970 Nov 17 06:28 Lunokhod 1 descends a pair of ramps on Luna 17 landing stage and moves onto the moon surface
1970 Nov 22 Lunokhod 1 is parked for the lunar night, having travelled 197 metres, returned 14 close up pictures of the Moon, and sent back 12 panoramic views during 10 communications sessions, and conducted analyses of the lunar soil - its protective 'lid' which carries a solar panel is closed
1970 Dec 5 A laser signal is directed at the French-built laser reflector on Lunokhod 1 and is used to measure the precise distance from the Earth to the Moon
1970 Dec 6 A second laser reflection experiment is performed with Lunokhod 1
1970 Dec 9 Lunokhod 1 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge
1970 Dec 10 Lunokhod 1 begins its second lunar day experimental programme
1970 Dec 22 Lunokhod 1 is parked for its second lunar night, 1,370 metres away from Luna 17, and having travelled a further 1,522 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements - its protective 'lid' is closed
1971 Jan 8 Lunokhod 1 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it third lunar day on the Moon
1971 Jan 17 Lunokhod 1 has returned to Luna 17 and photographs the spacecraft lander on the lunar surface
1971 Jan 20 Lunokhod 1 is parked for its third lunar night, having travelled a further 1,936 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements - it protective 'lid' is closed
1971 Feb 8 Lunokhod 1 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it fourth lunar day on the Moon
1971 Feb 19 Lunokhod 1 is parked for its fourth lunar night, having travelled a further 1,573 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements and its protective 'lid' is closed - it has reached the end of its originally-planned life
1971 Mar 9 Lunokhod 1 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it fifth lunar day on the Moon
1971 Mar 20 Lunokhod 1 is parked for its fifth lunar night, having travelled a further 2,004 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements - it protective 'lid' is closed
1971 Apr 8 Lunokhod 1 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it sixth lunar day on the Moon
1971 Apr 20 Lunokhod 1 is parked for its sixth lunar night, having travelled a further 1,029 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements - it protective 'lid' is closed
1971 May 7 Lunokhod 1 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it seventh lunar day on the Moon
1971 May 20 Lunokhod 1 is parked for its seventh lunar night, having travelled a further 197 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements - it protective 'lid' is closed
1971 Jun 5 Lunokhod 1 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it eighth lunar day on the Moon - it workload has been 'lightened' owing to the age of its systems
1971 Jun 18 Lunokhod 1 is parked for its eighth lunar night, having travelled a further 1,559 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements - it protective 'lid' is closed
1971 Jul 4 Lunokhod 1 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it ninth lunar day on the Moon
1971 Jul 17 Lunokhod 1 is parked for its ninth lunar night, having travelled a further 220 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements - it protective 'lid' is closed
1971 Aug 3 Lunokhod 1 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it tenth lunar day on the Moon
1971 Aug 16 Lunokhod 1 is parked for its tenth lunar night, having travelled a further 215 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements - it protective 'lid' is closed
1971 Aug 31 Lunokhod 1 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it eleventh lunar day on the Moon
1971 Sep 2 13:40 Luna 18 (E-8-5-407) launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket into 193 x 227 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.6 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon, then land and return a soil sample to Earth
1971 Sep 2 14:50 Final stage of Luna 18 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1971 Sep 3 02:00 Visual observations from the Shamakhin Observatory in Azerbaijan are used to measure Luna 18 trajectory at a distance of 100,000 kilometres
1971 Sep 4 Luna 18 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1971 Sep 6 Luna 18 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1971 Sep 7 21:00 Luna 18 fires its rocket engine to enter 101 kilometre circular orbit around the Moon at 35 degrees inclination
1971 Sep 11 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 18 orbit around the Moon is now 18 x 100 kilometres at 35 degrees inclination
1971 Sep 11 07:42 After completing 54 orbits of the Moon and holding 85 communications sessions with the Earth, Luna 18 fires its rocket engine and begins its descent towards a landing on the Moon surface
1971 Sep 11 07:48 Luna 18 lands on the Moon at 3.57 degrees north, 56.50 degrees east in the Mare Foecundatis - the ruggedness of the terrain causes it either to land at an awkward angle or to topple over - radio communication is lost
1971 Sep 15 Lunokhod 1 is parked for its eleventh lunar night, having travelled a further 88 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements - it protective 'lid' is closed
1971 Sep 28 10:00 Luna 19 (E-8LS-202) launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket into 172 x 260 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.6 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon and study the surface
1971 Sep 28 11:10 Final stage of Luna 19 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1971 Sep 29 Luna 19 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1971 Oct 1 Luna 19 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1971 Oct 2 Luna 19 enters 140 kilometre circular orbit around the Moon at 40.6 degrees inclination and begins its programme of studying the lunar gravitational field, the magnetic and electrical environment, and photographing the Moon surface
1971 Oct 4 On the anniversary of the launch of the first Sputnik', Lunokhod 1 is officially declared 'dead', having failed to respond to radio instructions for its revival - it has traveled 10,540 m and transmitted over 20,000 TV pictures and more than 200 TV panoramas, as well as conducting over 500 lunar soil tests
1971 Oct 6 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 19 orbit around the Moon is now 127 x 135 kilometres at 40.6 degrees inclination
1971 Nov 28 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 19 orbit around the Moon is now 77 x 385 kilometres at 40.7 degrees inclination
1972 Feb 14 03:27 Luna 20 (E-8-5-408) launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket into 191 x 238 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.5 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon, then land and return a soil sample to Earth
1972 Feb 14 04:37 Final stage of Luna 20 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1972 Feb 15 Luna 20 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1972 Feb 18 12:15 Approx time - Luna 20 enters 100 kilometre circular orbit around the Moon at 65 degrees inclination
1972 Feb 19 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 20 orbit around the Moon is now 21 x 100 kilometres at 65 degrees inclination
1972 Feb 21 17:13 After completing 54 orbits of the Moon and holding 85 communications sessions with the Earth, Luna 20 fires its rocket engine and begins its descent towards a landing on the Moon surface
1972 Feb 21 17:19 Luna 20 lands on the Moon at 3.53 degrees north, 56.55 degrees east in the Appolonius Highlands - 1.8 kilometres from where Luna 18 was lost
1972 Feb 21 Luna 20 uses a hollow drill to collect a core sample of the lunar surface - it weighs 35 grammes
1972 Feb 22 22:58 Luna 20 return stage fires its rocket motor and begins its journey back to Earth
1972 Feb 25 19:12 Luna 20 re-entry capsule touches down 40 kilometres north-west of Dzhezhkazgan at 48 degrees north, 67.57 degrees east
1972 Feb 26 Search teams reach and retrieve Luna 20 re-entry capsule
1972 Oct 3 The Soviet Union announces that Luna 19 is nearing the end of its mission as its onboard systems have deteriorated through age and exposure to space, and propellant for the attitude control system is running low
1973 Jan 8 06:55 Luna 21 (E-8-204) launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket into 190 x 235 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.6 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon and then land the Lunokhod 2 remote-controlled roving vehicle on its surface
1973 Jan 8 08:05 Final stage of Luna 21 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1973 Jan 9 Luna 21 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1973 Jan 12 14:25 Approx time - Luna 21 enters 90 x 110 kilometre circular orbit around the Moon at 60 degrees inclination
1973 Jan 13 Luna 21 rocket engine is used to lower the perilune (lowest height above the Moon) of its orbit
1973 Jan 14 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 21 orbit around the Moon is now 16 x 110 kilometres at 60 degrees inclination
1973 Jan 15 22:29 Luna 21 fires its rocket engine and begins its descent towards a landing on the Moon surface
1973 Jan 15 22:35 After completing 40 orbits of the Moon, Luna 21 lands at 28.85 degrees north, 30.45 degrees in the Le Monnier crater at the eastern edge of the Mare Serenitatis
1973 Jan 16 01:14 Lunokhod 2 descends a pair of ramps on Luna 21 landing stage and moves onto the moon surface - it travels 30 metres from Luna 21 and is parked
1973 Jan 18 Lunokhod 2 is moved to a position where it can take TV pictures of Luna 21 and the area around it before setting out on its travels
1973 Jan 24 Lunokhod 2 is parked for its first lunar night, having travelled 1,260 metres and carried out a programme of photography and soil measurements - it protective 'lid' is closed
1973 Feb 8 Lunokhod 2 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it second lunar day on the Moon
1973 Feb 23 Lunokhod 2 is parked for its second lunar night, having travelled 9,086 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements - it protective 'lid' is closed
1973 Mar 11 Lunokhod 2 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it third lunar day on the Moon
1973 Mar 23 Lunokhod 2 is parked for its third lunar night, having travelled 16,533 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements - it protective 'lid' is closed
1973 Apr 9 Lunokhod 2 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it fourth lunar day on the Moon
1973 Apr 22 Lunokhod 2 is parked for its fourth lunar night, having travelled 8,600 metres and continued its programme of photography and soil measurements - it protective 'lid' is closed
1973 May 8 Lunokhod 2 'lid' is opened and its batteries begin to charge prior to it fifth lunar day on the Moon
1973 Jun 3 Lunokhod 2 is officially declared 'dead', having travelled a further 880 metres (it probably ceased to operate at least two weeks earlier, during the lunar day) - it has traveled a total of 37 kilometres and transmitted over 80,000 TV pictures and 86 TV panoramas, as well as conducting over 700 lunar soil tests
1974 May 29 08:56 Luna 22 (E-8LS-206) launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket into 187 x 226 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.5 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon and study the surface
1974 May 29 10:06 Final stage of Luna 22 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1974 May 30 Luna 22 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1974 Jun 2 Luna 22 enters a 219 x 244 kilometre orbit around the Moon at 19.6 degrees inclination and begins its programme of studying the lunar gravitational field, the magnetic and electrical environment, and photographing the Moon surface
1974 Jun 9 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 22 orbit around the Moon is now 25 x 244 kilometres at 19.6 degrees inclination
1974 Jun 11 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 22 orbit around the Moon is now 171 x 1437 kilometres at 19.6 degrees inclination
1974 Jun 13 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 22 orbit around the Moon is now 181 x 299 kilometres at 19.6 degrees inclination
1974 Oct 28 14:30 Luna 23 (E-8-5M-410) launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket into 183 x 246 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.5 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon, then land and return a soil sample to Earth
1974 Oct 28 15:40 Final stage of Luna 23 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1974 Oct 31 Luna 23 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1974 Nov 2 21:50 Luna 23 enters 94 x 104 kilometre orbit around the Moon at 138 degrees inclination
1974 Nov 4 Luna 23 rocket engine is used to adjust its orbit around the Moon
1974 Nov 5 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 23 orbit around the Moon is now 17 x 105 kilometres at 138 degrees inclination
1974 Nov 6 05:31 Luna 23 fires its rocket engine and begins its descent towards a landing on the Moon surface
1974 Nov 6 05:37 Luna 23 lands on the Moon in the Mare Crisium - it is damaged during the landing and the drill is inoperable so it is not possible to retrieve the planned soil sample from 2.5 metres depth
1974 Nov 9 Communications with Luna 23 are terminated
1975 Apr 2 Owing to the effects of the lunar gravitational field, Luna 22 orbit around the Moon is now 200 x 1409 kilometres at 21 degrees inclination
1975 Aug 24 Owing to the effects of the lunar gravitational field, Luna 22 orbit around the Moon is now 30 x 1578 kilometres at 21 degrees inclination
1975 Sep 2 After firing its onboard rocket engine for a final time, Luna 22 orbit around the Moon is now 100 x 1286 kilometres at 21 degrees inclination - all propellant is now exhausted
1976 Aug 9 15:04 Luna 24 (E-8-5M-412) launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome by four-stage Proton rocket into 183 x 246 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.5 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon, then land and return a soil sample to Earth
1976 Aug 9 16:14 Final stage of Luna 24 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1976 Aug 11 Luna 24 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1976 Aug 13 23:11 Luna 24 fires its rocket engine and enters a 115 kilometre circular orbit around the Moon at 120 degrees inclination
1976 Aug 16 Luna 24 rocket engine is used to adjust its orbit around the Moon
1976 Aug 17 After firing its onboard rocket engine, Luna 24 orbit around the Moon is now 12 x 120 kilometres at 120 degrees inclination
1976 Aug 18 06:30 Luna 24 fires its rocket engine and begins its descent towards a landing on the Moon surface
1976 Aug 18 06:36 Luna 24 lands on the Moon at 12.75 degrees north, 62.20 degrees east in the Mare Crisium, a few hundred metres from Luna 23
1976 Aug 18 Luna 24 uses a long, hollow drill to collect a 1.6 metre core sample of the lunar surface - it weighs 170 grammes - it is coiled as it is deposited inside the return craft
1976 Aug 19 05:25 Luna 24 return stage fires its rocket motor and begins its journey back to Earth
1976 Aug 22 17:55 Luna 24 re-entry capsule touches down 200 kilometres south-east of Surgut
1976 Aug 24 The Soviet Union reports that it is still maintaining communication with Luna 24 on the Moon - this is the last formal announcement in the Soviet Luna programme
1977 Nov 11 Cosmos 159, a lunar communications and tracking test vehicle, re-enters the Earth atmosphere through the combined effects of air drag and gravity
Copyright © Robert Christy, all rights reserved
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