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Luna 1

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Luna 1
Organization: Soviet Union
Major Contractors: OKB-1
Mission Type: Planetary Science Lunar impact
Satellite of: Sun
Launch: January 2, 1959 at 16:41:21 UTC
Launch Vehicle: SS-6/R-7 (8K72)
End of Mission: Fly by of moon on
January 4, 1959
at distance of 5,995 km.
Mission Duration:  ? days
Mass: 361 kg
NSSDC ID: 1959-012A
Webpage: NASA NSSDC Master Catalog
Orbital elements
Semimajor Axis: 1.146 AU
Eccentricity: .14767
Inclination: 01
Orbital Period: 450 days
Aphelion: 1.315 AU
Perihelion: .9766 AU
Orbits: 37
Magnetometer : Magnetic Fields
Geiger counter: Radiation environment
detector :
Measure micrometeorites
scintillation counter: Magnetospheric studies

Luna 1 was the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of the Moon and the first of the Luna program of Soviet automatic interplanetary stations successfully launched in the direction of the Moon. While passing through the outer Van Allen radiation belt, the spacecraft's scintillator made measurements indicating that there are very few high energy particles in the outer belt.

The spacecraft was spherical. Five antennae extended from one hemisphere. Instrument ports also protruded from the surface of the sphere. There were no propulsion systems on the Luna 1 spacecraft itself. Because of its high velocity and its announced package of various metallic emblems with the Soviet coat of arms, it was concluded that Luna 1 was intended to impact the Moon.

On January 2 1959 Luna 1 became the first ever man-made object to reach the escape velocity of the earth, when it separated from its 1472 kg third stage. The third stage, 5.2 m long and 2.4 m in diameter, travelled along with Luna 1. On 3 January, at a distance of 113,000 km from Earth, a large (1 kg) cloud of sodium gas was released by the spacecraft, thus making this probe also the first artificial comet. This glowing orange trail of gas, visible over the Indian Ocean with the brightness of a sixth-magnitude star, allowed astronomers to track the spacecraft. It also served as an experiment on the behavior of gas in outer space. Luna 1 passed within 5995 km of the Moon's surface on 4 January after 34 hours of flight. It went into orbit around the Sun, between the orbits of Earth and Mars.

The spacecraft contained radio equipment, a tracking transmitter, and telemetry system, five different sets of scientific devices for studying interplanetary space, including a magnetometer, geiger counter, scintillation counter, and micrometeorite detector , and other equipment. The measurements obtained during this mission provided new data on the Earth's radiation belt and outer space, including the discovery that the Moon had no detectable magnetic field and that a solar wind, a strong flow of ionized plasma emanating from the Sun to stream through interplanetary space.

Preceded by :
Sputnik 2
Luna program Followed by :
Luna 2

External Link

NASA NSSDC Luna 1 webpage

Last updated: 05-13-2005 01:21:50
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04