Tag Archives: Space Probe

7 October 1959

Luna 3 space probe.

7 October 1959: An E-2A space probe, Luna 3, was launched by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics at 00:43:39.7 UTC, 4 October 1959, from the Tyuratam Launch Complex (now known as the Baikonur Cosmodrome). The launch vehicle was a 3-stage 8K72 rocket, a variant of the R7 Semyorka two-stage intercontinental ballistic missile. Luna 3 was approximately cylindrical, 130 centimeters (4 feet, 3.2 inches) long, with a diameter of 120 centimeters (3 feet, 11.2 inches). It weighed 278.5 kilograms (614 pounds).

At 1416 UTC, 6 October, the probe made its closest approach as it passed over the lunar south pole at 6,200 kilometers (3,852 miles) and continued around the far side of The Moon in an highly eccentric orbit. For 40 minutes, between 0330 and 0410 UTC, 7 October, cameras aboard Luna 3 took a series of images of the surface. These photographs, taken at a distance of 63,500 to 66,700 kilometers (39,457 to 41,445 miles), were the first photos ever taken of The Moon’s far side. Exposed film from the cameras was processed on board, then transmitted to Earth as television signals.

The orbit of Luna 3 was highly eccentric with a 15 day period. It came as close as 40,638 kilometers and as far as 460,755 kilometers (25,251 miles to 286,300 miles) from The Moon. Contact was lost 22 October 1959. It is believed to have reentered the Earth’s atmosphere after April 1960.

Image of the far side of The Moon captured by Luna 3, 7 October 1959.

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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18 September 1977

Earth and The Moon, photographed by Voyager 1, 18 September 1977. (NASA)

“This picture of the Earth and Moon in a single frame, the first of its kind ever taken by a spacecraft, was recorded September 18, 1977, by NASA’s Voyager 1 when it was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) from Earth. The moon is at the top of the picture and beyond the Earth as viewed by Voyager. In the picture are eastern Asia, the western Pacific Ocean and part of the Arctic. Voyager 1 was directly above Mt. Everest (on the night side of the planet at 25 degrees north latitude) when the picture was taken. The photo was made from three images taken through color filters, then processed by the Image Processing Lab at Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). Because the Earth is many times brighter than the Moon, the Moon was artificially brightened by a factor of three relative to the Earth by computer enhancement so that both bodies would show clearly in the prints. Voyager 1 was launched September 5, 1977 and Voyager 2 on August 20, 1977. JPL is responsible for the Voyager mission.”

—NASA Greatest Images Archive

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20 August 1975

Viking 1/Titan IIIE-Centaur launches from Kennedy Space Centaur, enroute to Mars, 20 August 1975. (NASA)

20 August 1975: The Viking 1 space probe was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a Titan IIIE/Centaur rocket. For the next ten months it traveled to Mars, the fourth planet of the Solar System. Once there, it was placed in orbit and began sending telemetry data back to Earth. A Viking Lander descended to the planet’s surface, landing at Chryse Planitia.

This was the first time that a spacecraft had landed on another planet. The orbiter continued to operate over the course of 1,485 orbits. As it ran low on fuel, mission controllers boosted it into a higher orbit to prevent it falling to the planet. Orbiter operations were terminated 17 August 1980. The lander operated for 6 years, 116 days, before the mission was terminated by a faulty transmission which resulted in a loss of contact, 11 November 1982.

The surface of Chryse Planitia, Mars, photographed by the Viking 1 Lander. (NASA)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

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