First interplanetary – Luna-1

Saturday, January 2, 2021, marks 62 years of the launch of the first interplanetary station “Luna-1”. This Soviet automatic interplanetary station was designed to study the moon and outer space. Despite the fact that it did not get to the moon, Luna-1 became the first spacecraft in the world to reach the second cosmic speed – 11 km / s, overcoming the gravity of the Earth and becoming an artificial satellite of the Sun.

The launch of the Vostok-L carrier rocket, which put the Luna-1 station on the flight path to the Moon, was performed on January 2, 1959. It was a rendezvous trajectory, without using a launch from orbit. The station also had the names “Luna-1D” and “Dream”. To achieve the second space speed, the carrier was equipped with a third stage (block “E”), with the RD0105 engine, created at the enterprise “Khimavtomatika Design Bureau” (Voronezh, now part of the State Corporation “Roscosmos”).

A day later, on January 3, at 3 hours 56 minutes and 20 seconds, at a distance of 119,500 km from Earth, “Luna-1” “turned” into an artificial comet, releasing a sodium cloud from a special container. This artificial comet has been seen by people in many countries. At 6 o’clock on January 4, 1959, the station passed the point of its trajectory closest to the Moon (5-6 thousand kilometers).

As already mentioned, the station did not reach the moon. The reason why the station did not reach the lunar surface is associated with an error that crept into the flight sequence: when the command to cut off the engine of the third stage, which was issued from the Earth, did not take into account the signal transit time from the command post to the station. However, the Luna-1 mission made it possible to understand and work out the technology of flight to a natural satellite of the Earth for subsequent spacecraft. Already on September 14, 1959, at 00:02:24, the Luna-2 station for the first time in the world reached the lunar surface in the region of the Sea of ​​Rains near the craters Aristille, Archimedes and Autolycus.

Among the outstanding scientific results obtained during the flight of “Luna-1” are the following:

  • The outer radiation belt of the Earth was registered for the first time using an onboard magnetometer;
  • the first direct measurements of the solar wind parameters were carried out using ion traps and particle counters;
  • the absence of a significant magnetic field was found on the Moon.

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