Luna 2 – the first space probe on the Moon
Luna 2 was a Soviet space probe that impacted the Moon on 13th/14th September 1959. Space probes are unmanned flying objects that are used for exploration. In this case, it was about exploring the Moon, with the goal to fly a human to the Moon and have them return safely. History shows that this did not become possible until ten years later, with the moon landing of Neil Armstrong within the framework of the Apollo 11 mission, in July 1969.
Luna 2 is the first manmade object that landed on another celestial body. The Soviet Union was one step ahead of the USA, back in the days of the »race into space«. It was of particular importance to demonstrate technical superiority, which had a vital momentum in the military competition on Earth. The ability to securely navigate an object through space, was equated with the ability to attack with intercontinental ballistic missiles.
The scientific value of Luna 2 lay in the validation of the theory that the Moon has no appreciable magnetic field and no radiation belt. For this purpose, the space probe included instrumentation like a magnetometer and a Geiger counter.
The landing took place in the eastern part of the Mare Imbrium, close to Aristides and Archimedes craters. After 33.5 hours of flight time, the radio signals of the probe suddenly ceased, indicating the impact of the 860 pounds heavy flying object. Its design with the spherical body and the protruding antennae reminds of an old science fiction movie and makes us chuckle nowadays. This is what high-tech used to look like back then!
Photos: NASA and RIA Novosti archive