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Luna 9

By Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia,

Luna 9
Organization: Soviet Union
Major contractors: GSMZ Lavochkin
Mission type: Planetary Science Lunar landing
Satellite of: Moon
Launch: January 31, 1966. 11:45:00 UTC
Launch vehicle: Molniya 8K78M (4-Stage R-7 / SS-6)
Mission highlight: Lunar soft landing on
February 3, 1966, 18:44:52 UTC
7°08′N 64°22′W / 7.13°N 64.37°W / 7.13; -64.37
Mission duration: 6 days. Last transmission
February 6, 1966, 22:55 UTC.
Mass: 1580 kg
NSSDC ID: 1966-006A
Webpage: NASA NSSDC Master Catalog
Orbital elements
Semimajor axis: n/a
Eccentricity: n/a
Inclination: n/a
Orbital period: n/a
Aposelene: n/a
Periselene: n/a
Orbits: Lunar soft landing
Close-up lunar surface photography : Lunar photography

Luna 9 (E-6 series), also known as Lunik 9 (internal name E-6 N. 13), was an unmanned space mission of the Soviet Union's Luna program. On February 3, 1966 the Luna 9 spacecraft was the first spacecraft to achieve a lunar soft landing and to transmit photographic data to Earth.

The automatic lunar station that achieved the survivable landing weighed 99 kg. It used a landing bag and survived the impact at 15 meters/second. It was a hermetically sealed container with radio equipment, a program timing device, heat control systems, scientific apparatus, power sources, and a television system. The Luna 9 payload was carried to Earth orbit by an A-2-E vehicle and then conveyed toward the Moon by a fourth stage rocket that separated itself from the payload. Flight apparatus separated from the payload shortly before Luna 9 landed.

After landing in the Oceanus Procellarum on February 3, the four petals, which covered the top half of the spacecraft, opened outward and stabilized the spacecraft on the lunar surface. Spring-controlled antennas assumed operating positions, and the television camera rotating mirror system, which operated by revolving and tilting, began a photographic survey of the lunar environment. Seven radio sessions, totaling 8 hours and 5 minutes, were transmitted as were three series of TV pictures.

Luna 9 soft landing capsule
Luna 9 soft landing capsule

When assembled, the photographs provided a panoramic view of the nearby lunar surface. The pictures included views of nearby rocks and of the horizon 1.4 km away from the spacecraft.

For unknown reasons, the pictures from Luna 9 were not released immediately by the Soviet authorities. Instead, the Jodrell Bank Observatory, which was monitoring the craft, noticed that the signal format used was identical to the internationally-agreed system used by newspapers for transmitting pictures. The Daily Express rushed a suitable receiver to the Observatory and the pictures from Luna 9 were decoded and published world-wide. The BBC reports speculation that the spacecraft's designers deliberately fitted the probe with equipment that conformed to the standard, specifically to enable reception of the pictures by Jodrell Bank.

With this mission, the Soviets accomplished another spectacular first in the space race, the first survivable landing of a manmade object on another celestial body. Luna 9 was the twelfth attempt at a soft-landing by the Soviets; it was also the first deep space probe built by the Lavochkin design bureau, which ultimately would design and build almost all Soviet (and Russian) lunar and interplanetary spacecraft. All operations prior to landing occurred without fault, and the 58-centimeter spheroid ALS capsule landed on the Moon at 18:45:30 UT on February 3, 1966 west of the craters Reiner and Marius in the Ocean of Storms (at 7°8' north latitude and 64°22' west longitude). Approximately five minutes after touchdown, Luna 9 began transmitting data to Earth, but it was seven hours (after the Sun climbed to 7° elevation) before the probe began sending the first of nine images (including five panoramas) of the surface of the Moon.

These were the first images sent from the surface of another planetary body. The radiation detector, the only scientific instrument on board, measured a dosage of 30 millirads (0.3 milligrays) per day. Perhaps the most important discovery of the mission was determining that a foreign object would not simply sink into the lunar dust, that is, that the ground could support a heavy lander. Last contact with the spacecraft was at 22:55 UT on February 6, 1966.

  • Launch date/time: January 31, 1966 at 11:45:00 UTC
  • In-orbit dry mass: 1580 kg


Preceded by
Luna 8
Luna programme Succeeded by
Cosmos 111

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Published in July 2009.

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