top of page

Luna-1, also known as The 1st Space Rocket and Dream (Мечта) was launched Jan 2, 1959 towards the Moon. Occasionally it gained speed and missed the Moon by 6000  kilimeters to become the first artificial satellite of Sun.  Although the mission was a partial success it had a very important scientific meaning.

Luna-1 Kiev postcard.jpg

Luna-2 was the first probe to reach the surface of the Moon on Sep 14, 1959

Luna 2, 1y postcard.jpg

Luna-3, also known as The 3rd Space Rocket, launched towards the Moon on Oct 4, 1959. It was a much more sophisticated space probe designed to approach the Moon, run a photo session and transmit the images while performing a complex gravity maneuver. The film should be developed abroad the ship and the data would be sent in facsimile format. Luna-3 took 29 photographs of the dark side of the Moon on Oct 7th and headed back to Earth. The first transmission was on Oct 18th but the quality of images was very poor due to high noise level. Although the second transmission was scheduled from a closer distance – it was never received and the probe ceased to respond.

Luna 2, 3y postcard.jpg

Luna-4 was a new generation of the space probe designed to perform soft landing on the Moon – Е-6. After first launches towards the Moon, in 1959 Korolev initiated two development projects – E-6 for the soft landing and E-7 to setup first artificial multifunctional satellite of the Moon. Four E-6 probes were built by the end of 1962. The first (Е-6 №1) was a testbed but all others were production examples ready to be launched using four-stage rocket launch vehicle “Molnia” (8K78).

The first attempt was done on Jan 4, 1963 with Е-6 №2 but the accelerator stage failure left the probe on the Earth orbit for a day before it came to its end in the atmosphere. The second launch of Е-6 №3 failed to reach the orbit due to the gyro glitch and splashed down in the Central Pacific. Both launches were not mentioned in Soviet press.

Е-6 №4 was successfully launched on April 2, 1963, brought to the Earth orbit, accelerated and started its journey towards the Moon. At this point it got the designation “Luna-4” and Soviet state press agency TASS released the information about successful launch towards the future Moon landing. The frustration came 4 days later, when due to the navigation system failure the probe missed its target by 8500 kilometers and returned towards Earth. Surprisingly TASS reported that “the mission was accomplished as planned and Luna-4 has transmitted a lot of important scientific information. Currently Luna-4 is on the way to become an Earth satellite while keeping communications for some time.”

ISOGIZ, 1962.jpg
Luna postcard.jpg

Mars-1 was the first probe to be brought on flying trajectory towards Mars and performed a partially successful approach. Mars-1 was launched on Nov 1, 1962 in the heat of Cuban missile crisis. Actually it was planned to leave Earth several days earlier, put the start pad was occupied by R-7 ballistic missile with 3 megaton warhead put on short alert in case the crisis develops into the nukes exchange. After a couple of unsuccessful launches Mars-1 was finally brought to the path towards Mars and started its journey. Unfortunately the one of the micro-engines developed a gas leak that led to the loss of the inertial orientation system. After the gas was lost all the orientation was done from Earth using commands from deep space communications facilities. March 21, 1963 was the last successful communication session at a distance of 106 million kilometers from Earth. Mars-1 probably had it’s closest approach to the Red Planet on June 19, 1963 at around 193,000 kilometers.

Venera, Kiev 1961.jpg
bottom of page