Luna - Exploring the Moon
2016 Aug 24
Wednesday, Day 237
Selected Luna Missions:
A different view from Ian Ridpath
Summarised by Don P Mitchell
The Mission of Luna 10
Luna 10 was the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of the Moon and then go into orbit around it. The basic design was similar to Luna 9's but the landing vehicle was replaced by a small satellite and the main engine was used to reduce speed in order to enter orbit rather than as a soft-landing retro rocket.
The complete Luna 10 spacecraft poses here prior to being mated to its carrier rocket and being despatched to the Moon. Its E-6 flight bus is similar to Luna 9's but the two-part, tapered cylindrical section with the short antennae, situated at the top, is the actual Moon satellite.
Minutes after Luna 10 went into orbit around the Moon, the lunar satellite separated, went into its own orbit close to that of the parent craft, and began to operate in its own right.
The lunar satellite was unstabilised but its instruments were able to measure the electrical, magnetic and radiation fields in near-lunar space. As it was battery powered, the satellite had a limited lifetime. Radio transmissions ceased after 57 days.
Luna 10 is no longer in orbit - the lunar gravitational pull over the Mare areas is greater than over the mountains. The rocks which cause this are referred to as 'Mascons' (short for 'Mass Concentrations'). The result is that satellite trajectories are constantly changing and at some point there is the likelihood of a collision with the Moon. Luna 10 has certainly suffered that fate by now.
Luna 10 Statistics:
Launch Vehicle: Molniya
Launching Technique: Low orbit around the Earth and then a direct landing trajectory
Mass: 1,600 kilogrammes fully fuelled (including 245 kg orbiter)
Length: 2.7 metres (including orbiter)
Maximum Diameter: 1.0 metres
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