In 1959 the Soviet probe Luna 2 became the first spacecraft to crash into the Moon. The intentional Moon strike was one of a number of early Soviet victories in the intense space race with the United States (started by the launch of Sputnik 1 in 1957).
Photo: The Luna 2 probe (NASA)
The Soviets crash a probe into the Moon.
The Russians crash-land the first Moon probe.
On 13 September 1959, the Russians triumphed with Luna 2 (also known as Lunik 2), the first Moon probe, which was intentionally crashed into the lunar surface. The mission was tracked from Jodrell Bank in the UK.
Luna 2 (E-1A series) was the second of the Soviet Union's Luna programme spacecraft launched to the Moon. It was the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the Moon and was also the first man-made object to land on another celestial body. On September 14, 1959 it successfully impacted with the lunar surface east of Mare Imbrium near the craters Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus.
Launch was scheduled for September 9, but the Blok I core stage was shut down after it failed to reach full thrust at ignition. The booster was removed from the pad and replaced by a different vehicle, delaying the flight by three days. Luna 2, like Luna 1, took a direct path to the Moon with a journey time of around 36 hours. This was dictated by the fact that the Earth-Moon gravitational system forced it to follow a curved trajectory, and launch had to occur from the side of the Earth opposite the Moon. Its journey time had to be, therefore, 12 hours, 36 hours or 60 hours in order to ensure that the Moon was above the horizon in the Soviet Union. Luna 2 hit the Moon about 800 kilometres from the centre of the visible disk 1959 September 13 at 21:02:24.
Luna 2 was similar in design to Luna 1, a spherical spacecraft with protruding antennas and instrument parts. The instrumentation was also similar, including scintillation counters, geiger counters, a magnetometer, Cherenkov detectors, and micrometeorite detectors. There were no propulsion systems on Luna 2 itself.