10-20-2007 13:59

The image at the top of the page is the first image of the far side of the Moon, taken by the Luna 3 spacecraft in October, 1959.

The Soviet Lunar program had 20 successful missions to the Moon and achieved a number of notable lunar "firsts": first probe to impact the Moon, first flyby and image of the lunar farside, first soft landing, first lunar orbiter, and the first circumlunar probe to return to Earth. The two successful series of Soviet probes were the Luna (24 lunar missions) and the Zond (5 lunar missions).

NSSDC currently holds data from the Luna 3, 9, 13, 21, and 22 and the Zond 3, 6, 7, and 8 missions. All this data is photographic in nature, except for the lunar libration data from the Luna 21 Orbiter. Lunar flyby missions (Luna 3, Zond 3, 6, 7, 8) obtained photographs of the lunar surface, particularly the limb and farside regions. The Zond 6, 7, and 8 missions circled the Moon and returned to Earth where they were recovered, Zond 6 and 7 in Siberia and Zond 8 in the Indian Ocean. The purpose of the photography experiments on the lunar landers (Luna 9, 13, 22) was to obtain closeup images of the surface of the Moon for use in lunar studies and determination of the feasibility of manned lunar landings.

Lunar surface close-up image from the Luna 9 lander in February, 1966 in the Oceanus Procellarum.