Luna programme

The Luna 3 probe

Luna programme

The Soviet Luna programme (sometimes called Lunik) of 24 unmanned Moon probes achieved a series of remarkable firsts.

In 1959 Luna 1, having missed its intended target (the Moon), became the first spacecraft to orbit another body in the Solar System, the Sun. In the same year, the Russians intentionally crashed Luna 2 into the Moon - another first.

Luna 9 made the first soft landing on the Moon and returned photographs of its surroundings in 1966.

In 1970 Luna 16 became the first unmanned craft to return Moon soil samples to the Earth.

Photo: The Luna 3 probe (NASA)

Watch and listen to clips from past programmes TV clips [2]

The Luna 3 probe

About Luna programme

Soviet Moon probes achieve a number of firsts.

About Luna programme

The Luna programme (from the Russian word Луна "Luna" meaning "Lunar" or "Moon"), occasionally called Lunik or Lunnik by western media, was a series of robotic spacecraft missions sent to the Moon by the Soviet Union between 1959 and 1976. Fifteen were successful, each designed as either an orbiter or lander, and accomplished many firsts in space exploration. They also performed many experiments, studying the Moon's chemical composition, gravity, temperature, and radiation.

Twenty-four spacecraft were formally given the Luna designation, although more were launched. Those that failed to reach orbit were not publicly acknowledged at the time, and not assigned a Luna number. Those that failed in low Earth orbit were usually given Cosmos designations. The estimated cost of the Luna programme was about $4.5 billion.

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