62 years ago, the USSR photographed the back side of the moon. We show archive footage

62 years ago, the USSR photographed the back side of the moon. Shows archival footage

October 7, 2021

On October 7, 1959, an important event in human history occurred: the Soviet Luna-3 automatic interplanetary station was the first to photograph the lunar surface, which is not visible from Earth. As a result of decoding the images, about 500 new details of the Moon were discovered.

After launching from Baikonur on October 4, 1959, the Luna-3 spacecraft entered the highly elongated elliptical orbit of an artificial Earth satellite and circled around the back side of the Moon from south to north. On October 7, sunlight reflected from the moon was recorded, after which a 40-minute photo shoot was launched.



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The first image was taken at the "lunar" coordinates of 17°00′ N. 117°00′ E at a distance of more than 60,000 km from the surface of the Earth's satellite, and the last image was taken from a distance of 66,700 km. A total of 29 photos were taken, covering 70% of the back side. The pictures turned out very noisy and low resolution, but many details could be recognized. 


The first image of the back side of the Moon. This and other images showed that the invisible part of the Moon is very different from the visible part - it has no so-called lunar seas, that is, vast areas that look like dark areas. Although there are dark spots in the footage - these are craters. Source: nasa.gov


Flip through the photos and read the descriptions!

Luna-3" transmitted all the photos from the Earth's orbit. It happened on the 18th of October 1959. Just a few days later, on October 22, communication with the station was lost.


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Gravity and the movement of the Earth's natural satellite on its own orbit made it very difficult for Soviet scientists. In order for the Luna-3 to maintain its orientation in space for the required period of time, the apparatus had to be stabilized. The "Seagull" system was responsible for this, which included solar and lunar light sensors, gyroscopic angular rotation sensors, a counting and solving device, and orientation micromotors using compressed nitrogen as the working body.


"Luna-3 was the world's first spacecraft to perform a gravity maneuver. To return to Earth, the interplanetary station's trajectory was altered using the force of the moon's gravity.


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