Luna - Exploring the Moon
2015 Jan 27
Tuesday, Day 27
Selected Luna Missions:
A different view from Ian Ridpath
Summarised by Don P Mitchell
The Mission of Luna 24
Luna 24 was the last of the Soviet Union's major lunar exploration missions. Its goal was similar to Luna 16 and other predecessors in that it was designed to obtain a core sample from the surface. The difference between Luna 24 and those that had gone before was that its sample was to be 2.5 metres below the surface with the corresponding engineering challenge of fitting a long core of soil and rock into the small sample-return vehicle.
This drawing is one of many with a space exploration theme created by Soviet cosmonaut Alexei Leonov. It depicts Luna 24 on the Moon's surface. The twin rails of the drill mechanism can be seen at the right front of the lander.
The system worked by having the drill motor travelling on this pair of rails while the long drill bit (seen between the lower sections of rail) penetrated the Moon. As the core sample was retracted, another mechanism ensured that it slid away into a flexible tube. The tube was then was coiled tightly before being transferred to the return capsule.
The wedge-shaped protective shield next to the capsule keeps the drill head and the spiral packing device away from direct solar heating while in the rest position. Too much thermal expansion or contraction could have resulted in Luna 24 being unable to pack away the sample. In the event it succeeded.
On the left is the tightly-coiled soil sample, still in the protective tubing into which it was inserted while on the Moon. It was wound like a spiral spring in order to create a cylinder that could be loaded into the return capsule. the return capsule itself was similar to that of Luna 16 with the same rocket engine and fuel tank layout to get the capsule back to Earth.
Luna 24 Statistics:
Launch Vehicle: Proton (four stage version)
Launching Technique: Low orbit around Earth, translunar trajectory, then lunar orbit followed by landing
Mass: 1,900 kilogrammes (approx) on lunar surface
Length: 2.3 metres)
Maximum Diameter: 3.3 metres (including landing legs)
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