Wednesday, February 17, 2016

50 Years Ago: Luna 9 on the Moon

Soviet Luna IX Lunar Probe.

This February marks the 50th anniversary of a great achievement for Soviet Russia's moon program. Back on February 3, 1966, the Russians successfully directed the Luna IX Moon Probe towards the lunar surface. The Molniya-M rocket carrying the probe left Earth on January 31. Using nitrogen-powered thrusters, the spacecraft commenced spinning for thermal control, and the fourth stage propelled the craft into a lunar interception orbit.
Lander segment process art.

At 16 miles from the surface, the craft began retro-rocket firings to slow its descent. When the probe reached 16 feet above the surface the lander capsule was ejected, and when on the surface it deployed its landing petals for orientation and began taking pictures.
One of the first images from the surface of the Moon.

The lander began sending the images back to Earth about 7 hours later. Interestingly, the Soviets delayed releasing the images, but meanwhile in England, scientists at the Jodrell Observatory where able to print the images and get them to the papers. There is some speculation that the inclusion of standard press-type Radiofax imagers on the probe may have been intended to help the Observatory prepare the images for release anyway.

No comments: