Luna 1

Luna 1

Infobox Lunar orbiter
Name = Luna 1 (Mechta)

Organization = Soviet Union
Contractors = OKB-1
MissionType = Planetary Science
LaunchDate = 2 January 1959 at 16:41:21 UTC
LaunchVehicle = SS-6/R-7 (8K72)
MissionHighlight = Fly-by of Moon on 4 January 1959 at distance of 5,995 km
MissionDuration = ?
Mass = 361 kg
NSSDC_ID = 1959-012A
Web = [ NASA NSSDC Master Catalog]
SatelliteOf = Sun
SemiMajor = 1.146 AU
Eccentricity = 0.14767
Inclination = 0.01°
Period = 450 d
Apo = 1.315 AU
Peri = 0.9766 AU
Orbits = 37 (as of 2005)
LunarLandingDate = None
LunarLandingCoords =
LunarLiftoffDate =
Instruments = Magnetometer (magnetic fields)
Geiger counter (radiation environment)
Micrometeoroid detector
Scintillation counter (magnetospheric studies)

Luna 1 (E-1 series), also known as Mechta ( _ru. Мечта, "lit.": "Dream") was the first spacecraft to reach the vicinity of the Moon and the first of the Luna programme of Soviet automatic interplanetary stations successfully launched in the direction of the Moon.

While traveling through the outer Van Allen radiation belt, the spacecraft's scintillator made observations indicating that there exist a small number of high energy particles in the outer belt. The measurements obtained during this mission provided new data on the Earth's radiation belt and outer space. It was discovered that the Moon had no detectable magnetic field. The first ever direct observations and measurements of the solar wind, a strong flow of ionized plasma emanating from the Sun and streaming through interplanetary space, were performed. That ionized plasma concentration was measured to be some 700 particles per cm3 at altitudes 20-25 thousand km and 300 to 400 particles per cm3 at altitudes 100-150 thousand km.cite book | title=Yearbook of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia | year=1959 | publisher=Sovetskaya Enciklopediya | location=Moscow | language=Russian |id=ISSN|0523-9613 | chapter=Soviet Space Rocket | chapterurl=] The spacecraft also marked the first instance of radio communication at the half million kilometres distance.

A malfunction in the ground-based control system caused an error in the rocket's burntime, and the spacecraft missed the target and flew by the Moon. Approaching it at 5,900 km at the closest point, Luna 1 has become the first object launched by mankind to reach heliocentric orbit. It was then dubbed a "new planet" and renamed "Mechta". Its orbit lies between those of Earth and Mars. The name "Luna-1" was applied retroactively years later. Luna-1 was originally referred to as the "First Cosmic Rocket", in reference to its achievement of escape velocity.

The spacecraft

The scientific equipment and the satellite's power center was located in the spherical container, combining for a mass of 361.3 kg. Five antennae extended from one hemisphere. Instrument ports also protruded from the surface of the sphere. The spacecraft contained radio equipment, a tracking transmitter, a 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 total final (with fuel spent) mass of the third (upper) stage rocket with the spacecraft was 1472 kg.

It was intended that after a completion of its scientific mission of in-flight measurements, Luna-1 would crash into the Moon delivering two metallic pennants with the Soviet coat of arms that were included into its package.

The flight

Luna 1 was launched 2 January 1959 at 16:41 GMT (19:41 Moscow time) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by a Luna 8K72 rocket.

Luna 1 became the first ever man-made object to reach the escape velocity of the Earth (what is also known as the ". It 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.

See also

* Pioneer 4 - a similar NASA mission launched 1959-03-03, several weeks after Luna 1.


* Boris Chertok, "Rakety i liudi: goriachie dni, kholodnoy voyny", Moscow, "Mashinostroenie", 2-nd edition, 1999. [ Section 2-7] .
* [ Luna (program)] in Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
* [ Zarya - Luna 1 chronology]
* [ NASA NSSDC Luna 1 webpage]

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