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Soviet Luna Missions
PhilHorzempa
post May 4 2006, 03:05 AM
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I thought that it was time to start up a discussion of what we know, or
would like to know, about the Soviet Luna Missions.

To start off, I have heard many a reference to the landing system utilized
by the early landers, such as Luna 9. However, I have yet to find a report,
or even a diagram, that shows the sequence of events, or such details as
the air bags. If such references do not exist, I hope that some of the UMSF
community have Russian contacts that could lead us to the source material
before it ends up in the dust bin of history.

In addition, I heard of an effort several years ago to obtain ALL of the imagery
from Lunakhods 1 and 2. Does anyone know if that effort was able to
secure that data?

Also, as far as Lunas 15, 18 and 23, the sample-return missions that didn't
quite make it home, are there any official reports "out there" that detail what
actually occurred to those missions? Or will we have to wait for the
high-resolution images from the LRO to determine their fates?


Another Phil
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post May 4 2006, 06:27 AM
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We had quite a detailed discussion of the Luna 4 through 13 lander missions in -- of all places -- the "I'm back from the Europa Focus Group meeting" thread down in the "Europa" section (which gives you some idea of how this site tends to wander around erratically from one subject to the next; we got there, somehow, via discussions of a possible lightweight lander design for Europa Orbiter). It turns out that there was an issue of "JBIS" a few years ago that provided extremely detailed information on these missions (plus the Luna 10 through 14 orbiters).

An earlier issue of JBIS detailed the very first Soviet Luna missions (1958 through 1960). I don't know whether there are any issues of that magazine (which does periodic issues on astronautics history, including the Soviet branch) that cover the later Lunas (1969-76), but I wouldn't be surprised. Once again, I'll have to take a look the next time I'm down at UC-Davis.
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tasp
post May 4 2006, 12:52 PM
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Luna 23 and Luna 18 were apparently damaged by hard landings. I am just speculating, but perhaps the landing radar was confused by surface boulders and the retros cut out a little early.


Luna 15, I guess they are pretty sure was a sample return, crashed too. Considering the complexity of a sample return, a first attempt (is this known for sure?) might have gone awry in any number of ways. Considering the US Ranger series, (but not the Surveyors!), probably not too surprising.
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ljk4-1
post May 4 2006, 01:53 PM
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QUOTE (tasp @ May 4 2006, 08:52 AM) *
Luna 15, I guess they are pretty sure was a sample return, crashed too. Considering the complexity of a sample return, a first attempt (is this known for sure?) might have gone awry in any number of ways. Considering the US Ranger series, (but not the Surveyors!), probably not too surprising.


I saw a drawing of Luna 15 circa 1992 from the aerospace group that
used to put out annual reports on Soviet spacecraft and missions (could
someone help me with the name, please? Thanks.).

It looked exactly like Luna 16, which did land on the Moon and return
some surface samples successfully to Earth just over one year later.
Not a real surprise, but nice to know.

This Web site has what it labels to be an image of Luna 15, but can
anyone confirm this?

http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/spacecraft/q0196.shtml

At least it wasn't a scenario out of the 1968 film Countdown where
Luna 15 was really a desperate manned attempt to beat the USA and
the Soviets ended up losing three cosmonauts.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0062827/

The Soviets were also trying to beat Apollo 11 to the Moon and return
with some surface samples before the US did as a sort of coup. No
doubt rushing too fast in this part of the Space Race cost us all a little
bit of a different place to study from the Moon.

There is a very funny story created by Dwayne Day in 1999 detailing
how Luna 15 was NOT an unoccupied vehicle:

http://www.astronautix.com/astros/bormp504.htm

Don P. Mitchell has an incredible collection of Soviet lunar probe
images, including many from the two Lunakhods:

http://www.mentallandscape.com/C_Catalog.htm

This is not to ignore or downplay anyone else's collection of similar
images, it's just that Mitchell appears to have the most I am aware of.

There are already some other UMSF threads that discuss the Soviet lunar
missions and have images from them as well:

http://www.unmannedspaceflight.com/index.p...indpost&p=13362

http://www.unmannedspaceflight.com/index.p...findpost&p=9080

http://www.unmannedspaceflight.com/index.p...findpost&p=9101

http://www.unmannedspaceflight.com/index.p...indpost&p=11828

http://www.unmannedspaceflight.com/index.p...indpost&p=13688


--------------------
"After having some business dealings with men, I am occasionally chagrined,
and feel as if I had done some wrong, and it is hard to forget the ugly circumstance.
I see that such intercourse long continued would make one thoroughly prosaic, hard,
and coarse. But the longest intercourse with Nature, though in her rudest moods, does
not thus harden and make coarse. A hard, sensible man whom we liken to a rock is
indeed much harder than a rock. From hard, coarse, insensible men with whom I have
no sympathy, I go to commune with the rocks, whose hearts are comparatively soft."

- Henry David Thoreau, November 15, 1853

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gndonald
post May 4 2006, 02:08 PM
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The Astronautix.com website has a good timeline of the Luna probe series, for some of the pictures taken on those missions, Don P. Mitchells website, is the best place to look.

Interestingly while Luna 15/18 were lost in crashes, Luna 23 landed with no problems but suffered a drill failure after landing, the Soviets apparently 'ran' the lander for a few days and then shut it down, however no images seem to have been released from the mission. (No pictures were taken by Luna 16 because the floodlights failed to switch on.) It would be interesting to know if any pictures were taken by Luna 23, or whether like Luna 24 the probe did not carry a camera.

Sorry for duplicating ljk-4's links but obviously we were typing at the same time.
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tedstryk
post May 4 2006, 02:45 PM
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QUOTE (tasp @ May 4 2006, 12:52 PM) *
Luna 23 and Luna 18 were apparently damaged by hard landings. I am just speculating, but perhaps the landing radar was confused by surface boulders and the retros cut out a little early.
Luna 15, I guess they are pretty sure was a sample return, crashed too. Considering the complexity of a sample return, a first attempt (is this known for sure?) might have gone awry in any number of ways. Considering the US Ranger series, (but not the Surveyors!), probably not too surprising.


Also, Luna 15 was launched to beat Apollo 11 back to earth with the first samples to try to take some of Apollo's thunder. The propaganda lines would have spoken of how they returned samples at a fraction of the cost. But based on everything I have seen, they really needed more time to work on it (and, once they had that time, Luna 16 suceeded).


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gndonald
post May 4 2006, 04:54 PM
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This is a follow up to my earlier post (see above). The information on Astronautix.com states that the Soviets continued to operate the lander portions of Luna 16/20/24 (The sample return craft) after the samples were launched towards Earth.

Similarly, the abortive Luna 23 mission also featured a period of lander operation, though in this case it would have been tied to the failed attempt to collect surface material.

It would appear that at least Lunar 16 and 20 were fitted with cameras, but it is unclear if Luna 23 was so equipped. Luna 24 (allegedly) had no cameras fitted.

Does anyone have a listing, rough or otherwise of what other instruments were fitted to the landers and on just how long the landers were operated after launch of the samples?
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Phil Stooke
post May 4 2006, 06:34 PM
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Following up on a couple of points here... I'm on vacation and away from my usual resources...

The Russians are trying to collect everything and make it available through a website, similar to a PDS node. But they have no money for it. I have been close to the people involved, chiefly Kira B. Shingareva of MIIGAiK and Sasha Basilevsky of Vernadsky. Some material has been collected - big tapes with Lunokhod images from the State Archives, stuff stolen for later sale and now recovered, negatives scanned etc. But getting it all organized is another matter and the lack of money makes it very slow. Some has been done on a volunteer basis. So don't expect results for a long time. What we REALLY need is a philanthropist to put money into it. So email all your philanthropist buddies.

Lunas 15, 16, 18 and 20 plus the failed sample return launches from that period - all had cameras. Don Mitchell describes them on his site, referenced above. Luna 16, it appears now, DID take images. It landed at night and its lights failed, as noted above, but it took pics anyway. But they were mostly black with just a few spots of light from earthshine. They were never published. (This info from Basilevsky via Mitchell). I would dearly love to get my hands on the digital data, and I assume we could do a lot more with it using modern methods than was possible back in 1970. The later sample return missions had no cameras due to having a redesigned drill. The old camera was for targeting the old drill to a rock-free spot. The new drill couldn't be retargeted and also took up the camera's space and mass (I think).

Phil


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ljk4-1
post May 4 2006, 07:20 PM
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In the early 1990s, Andrew Lepage wrote in the online EJASA on a series
about the Soviet and US race to the Moon, focusing on then new information
about the lunar probes.

All of the EJASA issues from 1989 to 1996 are online here:

ftp://ftp.seds.org/pub/info/newsletters/ejasa/

Andrew's articles are in these issues:

"Mars 1994" - March 1990
"The Great Moon Race: The Soviet Story, Part One" - December 1990
"The Great Moon Race: The Soviet Story, Part Two" - January 1991
"The Mystery of ZOND 2" - April 1991
"The Great Moon Race: New Findings" - May 1991
"The Great Moon Race: In the Beginning..." - May 1992
"The Great Moon Race: The Commitment" - August 1992
"The Great Moon Race: The Long Road to Success" - September 1992
"Recent Soviet Lunar and Planetary Program Revelations" - May 1993
"The Great Moon Race: The Red Moon" - July 1993
"The Great Moon Race: The Tide Turns" - August 1993
"The Great Moon Race: The Final Lap - November 1993
"A Personal Adventure in Home Computing: The Origin of Comet
Shoemaker-Levy 9" - March 1994
"The Great Moon Race: The Finish Line" - July 1994


--------------------
"After having some business dealings with men, I am occasionally chagrined,
and feel as if I had done some wrong, and it is hard to forget the ugly circumstance.
I see that such intercourse long continued would make one thoroughly prosaic, hard,
and coarse. But the longest intercourse with Nature, though in her rudest moods, does
not thus harden and make coarse. A hard, sensible man whom we liken to a rock is
indeed much harder than a rock. From hard, coarse, insensible men with whom I have
no sympathy, I go to commune with the rocks, whose hearts are comparatively soft."

- Henry David Thoreau, November 15, 1853

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Dyche Mullins
post May 4 2006, 08:42 PM
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QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ May 4 2006, 06:53 AM) *
There is a very funny story created by Dwayne Day in 1999 detailing
how Luna 15 was NOT an unoccupied vehicle:

http://www.astronautix.com/astros/bormp504.htm


This reminds me of the beautiful and brutally satirical Victor Pelevin novel, _Omon Ra_, in which none of the Soviet space probes was ever really UNmanned.

http://lib.ru/PELEWIN/omon_engl.txt
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ljk4-1
post May 4 2006, 09:09 PM
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QUOTE (Dyche Mullins @ May 4 2006, 04:42 PM) *
This reminds me of the beautiful and brutally satirical Victor Pelevin novel, _Omon Ra_, in which none of the Soviet space probes was ever really UNmanned.

http://lib.ru/PELEWIN/omon_engl.txt


According to the Phantom Cosmonaut section of Astronautix, apparently there
were rumors of a "KGB Dwarf" who secretly drove Lunakhod 1 on a one-way
suicide mission!

http://www.astronautix.com/astros/kgbdwarf.htm


"We travel together, passengers on a little space ship, dependent on its vulnerable supplies of air and soil . . . preserved from annihilation only by the care, the work, and I will say the love, we give our fragile craft." - Adlai Stevenson


--------------------
"After having some business dealings with men, I am occasionally chagrined,
and feel as if I had done some wrong, and it is hard to forget the ugly circumstance.
I see that such intercourse long continued would make one thoroughly prosaic, hard,
and coarse. But the longest intercourse with Nature, though in her rudest moods, does
not thus harden and make coarse. A hard, sensible man whom we liken to a rock is
indeed much harder than a rock. From hard, coarse, insensible men with whom I have
no sympathy, I go to commune with the rocks, whose hearts are comparatively soft."

- Henry David Thoreau, November 15, 1853

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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post May 4 2006, 10:34 PM
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If you REALLY like Luna 15 conspiracy theories, Allen Drury -- the Godawful right-wing political-thriller writer who got the Pulitzer for "Advise and Consent" in 1960 only because, after the Pulitzer board had awarded it to Saul Bellow, the newspaper publishers who own the Pulitzer Prize organization decided to take it away from Bellow and award it to Drury for writing an Important Political Novel -- wrote a lulu in 1970 called "The Throne of Saturn", in which Luna 15 was an unsuccessful attempt to bomb the Apollo 11 landing site and kill Armstrong and Aldrin because...because...well, just because.

QUOTE (ljk4-1 @ May 4 2006, 09:09 PM) *
According to the Phantom Cosmonaut section of Astronautix, apparently there
were rumors of a "KGB Dwarf" who secretly drove Lunakhod 1 on a one-way
suicide mission!


Maybe they were circus clowns, and there were several of them onboard.
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gndonald
post May 5 2006, 03:19 AM
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Hopefully the last word on Luna 15 conspiracies. The rpg magazine Dragon once ran a series of articles adapting the moon to different rpgs. One of these was called 'Zondraker' and dealt with espionage on the moon in a hypothetical 1980's.

One of the scenario outlines had the players visiting the Luna 15 site and discovering that rather than a Luna 16/18/23/24 style lander the probe was in fact a last ditch attempt to put a Cosmonaut on the moon.
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4th rock from th...
post May 6 2006, 01:48 AM
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Attached Image


Finally I've finished one of my projects: merging various Luna 3 images to reduce noise, cover all of the moon's disk and replace missing data areas.

This is my final result and not that bad in my opinion ;-)
Much of the image resolution was lost in the noise, but the picture's dynamic range was recovered.


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tedstryk
post May 6 2006, 02:59 PM
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QUOTE (4th rock from the sun @ May 6 2006, 01:48 AM) *

Attached Image


Finally I've finished one of my projects: merging various Luna 3 images to reduce noise, cover all of the moon's disk and replace missing data areas.

This is my final result and not that bad in my opinion ;-)
Much of the image resolution was lost in the noise, but the picture's dynamic range was recovered.


Nice work! I had never thought of doing that!


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