Touchdown!

February 3, 1966 – The Space Race is now in full gear and the Soviets achieved another first by safely landing a spacecraft on the surface of the moon.

The Soviet Space Program had achieved a series of firsts including:

  • the first satellite (Sputnik 1),
  • first animal (Laika the dog),
  • first man (Yuri Gagarin),
  • first woman (Valentina Tereshkova),
  • the first spacewalk (Alexey Lenov),
  • the first impact on the moon (Lunik 2),
  • and the first images from the dark side of the moon (Lunik 3).

The Soviet Lunik 9 was a soft landing and produced the first image ever transmitted from the lunar surface.  It weighed just over 200 pounds and landed at about 34 mph in a hermetically sealed bag.  It’s landing proved the lunar surface was able to support a spacecraft that did not sink into the lunar soil.  The four petals that covered the top half on the craft opened to stabilized the craft and the antennas moved into position and began to survey the area.  For unknown reasons, the first images transmitted back to earth were not immediately published by the Soviets, and the British rushed to intercept and publish them.

In the race to the moon, this achievement gave the Soviets another psychological victory and the Americans struggled to keep up with Soviet striving to surpass them hopefully winning the Cold War. Slowly the tide would turn, and the American Apollo Program would take the lead.

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Filed under 1960s, Space Race, Technology, USSR

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