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Luna 3

Courtesy of NASA's National Space Science Data Center

Launch Date/Time: 1959-10-04 at 02:24:00 UTC
Launch Site/Country: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), U.S.S.R.
Launch Vehicle: Modified SS-6 (Sapwood) with 1st Generation Upper Stage
On-orbit dry mass: 278.50 kg. (612.7 lb.)

Description

Luna 3, an automatic interplanetary station, was equipped with radio communication and telemetering systems, a television system with an automatic film processing unit, a set of scientific instruments, systems for orientation relative to the sun and moon, solar cells for electric power supply, and a temperature control system. This spacecraft was controlled by radio command from Earth. It was launched on a trajectory that bent over the Moon (closest approach to the Moon was 6,200 kilometers or 3,850 miles) and was stabilized while in optical view of the far side of the Moon.

On October 7, 1959, the television system obtained a series of photographs that were developed on-board the spacecraft. The photographs were scanned and were radio transmitted to ground stations in facsimile form on October 18, 1959, as the spacecraft, in a barycentric orbit, returned near to the Earth. The photographs were to be retransmitted at another point close to Earth but were not. The spacecraft returned very indistinct pictures, but, through computer enhancement, a tentative atlas of the lunar farside was produced.

The purpose of this experiment was to obtain photographs of the lunar surface as the spacecraft flew by the moon. It was particularly desirable to get photographs of parts of the moon not seen well or never seen from the earth, such as the limb and farside of the moon, to gain knowledge of the characteristics of the unseen hemisphere of the moon.

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