Category Soviet and Russian Lunar Exploration


Landing a cabin on the moon proved to be much more difficult than either the United States or the Soviet Union imagined. The USSR made twelve attempts, succeeding only twice. With Ranger, the Americans made three attempts, not succeeding until Surveyor 1 in June 1966. For the Russians, the main problems turned out to be the upper stage of the rocket, the translunar course and the navigation systems more than

Table 4.1. Key events in the programme of Luna 13.

No. Date Time Event

Подпись: 1 24 December 21: 01 2 24 December 21: 05.30 3 24 December 21:06-21:18 4 25 December 15:15-16:53 5 26 December 16:00-18:23 6 27 December 16:46-19:55 7 27 December 20:30-21:32 8 27-28 December 23:02-00:21 9 28 December 00:41-01:06 10 28 December 02:23-02:48 11 28 December 07:05-09:13 Landing First signal

First communication session Second communication session Third communication session Fourth communication session Fifth communication session Sixth communication session Seventh communication session Eighth communication session Ninth and last communication session

the actual landing phase itself. The Ye-6 landers were more sophisticated than the Ranger landers, being able to carry out a broader range of experiments and observa­tions. They achieved the function of determining that the soil would bear a manned spacecraft and that radiation levels on the moon were acceptable. They returned detailed close-up pictures of the moonscape.

The Ye-6 design was later put to good use when the Soviet Union came to soft – land spacecraft on Mars in 1971 (Mars 3). When the American Pathfinder successfully soft-landed on Mars in 1997, it used the airbag technique developed by the Russians in the 1960s (not that this was remembered at the time). Airbags were used for the later American Mars probes Spirit and Opportunity in 2003-4. The difficulties the Americans experienced with their Mars probes also echoed some of the frustrating difficulties experienced by the Russians in the 1960s.

Ye-6, Ye-6M series

4 Jan 1963


2 Feb 1963


2 Apr 1963

Luna 4

(missed moon)

21 Mar 1964


12 Mar 1965


(Cosmos 60, but some science data)

10 Apr 1965


9 May 1965

Luna 5


8 Jun 1965

Luna 6

(missed moon)

4 Oct 1965

Luna 7


3 Dec 1965

Luna 8


31 Jan 1966

Luna 9


21 Dec 1966

Luna 13 (Ye-6M)


Luna 13 silhouettes

Ye-6, -6M: scientific outcomes

• Density of lunar regolith similar to medium-density Earth rock, little dust, 0.8gm/cm3.

• Well able to receive a manned lunar landing vehicle.

• Radiation level of 30mrad/day, acceptable to humans.

• Moon absorbs three-quarters of cosmic radiation.

• Characterization of local landscape in two locations.

• Temperature of lunar surface, 117°C.


The selection of cosmonauts into two groups reflected the two streams of the moon programme: around the moon (L-1) and landings (LOK and LK). The first selection took place on 2nd September 1966, when an L-1 Zond group was established:

Commanders: Georgi Beregovoi, Valeri Bykovsky, Yuri Gagarin, Yevgeni Khru – nov, Alexei Leonov, Vladimir Komarov, Andrian Nikolayev, Vladimir Shatalov and Boris Volynov.

Flight engineers: Georgi Grechko, Valeri Kubasov, Oleg Makarov, Vladislav Volkov, Alexei Yeliseyev.

This was modified 18th January 1967 and made smaller on account of the upcoming Soyuz 1/2 mission:

Commanders: Pyotr Klimuk, Alexei Leonov, Pavel Popovich, Valeri Voloshin, Boris Volynov, Yuri Artyukhin.

Engineers: Georgi Grechko, Oleg Makarov, Nikolai Rukhavishnikov, Vitally Sevastianov, Anatoli Voronov.

This officially marked the start of mission training for the lunar programme. Despite the selection, getting training under way was another matter. The first simulator for the L-1, called Volchok, did not arrive until a year later, in January 1968. It was built by the M. M. Gromov Flight Research Institute and installed at the Air Force Institute for Space Medicine. The main function of the simulator was to enable the training group to practise high-speed ballistic and skip reentries into the Earth’s atmosphere, which was considered the point of greatest difficulty and danger. Versions of the simulator were developed for the LK (Luch), the descent module (Saturn) and for practising rendezvous (Uranus and Orion). The group did no fewer than 70 simulated returns from the moon and, according to Alexei Leonov, learned to land the simulator back on Earth with an accuracy of 1,000 m. Not only that, but they practised the reentry manoeuvre in the 3,000-tonne centrifuge in Star Town. At one stage, Alexei Leonov was subjected to 14 G, causing haemorrhages on those parts of his body that were most severely compressed.

The arrival of the simulator, which had two seats, prompted crews to be divided into pairs for the around-the-moon mission. With the Soyuz programme grounded, cosmonauts could be reassigned. By February 1968, five crews had been formed for the L-1 Zond mission: [6]

Although a member of the original group, Grechko had lost his place temporarily due to breaking his leg in a parachute jump (Vitally Sevastianov took his place). The definitive crews for the L-1 mission were eventually settled on 27th October 1968. The final selection was as follows:


With the failure of the N-l, Russian hopes of mounting an effective challenge to Apollo were sinking fast. The first sample return mission in June had failed and now the second N-l. Now the gambler had only one card left to play. The second Ye-8-5 was prepared and hustled to the pad in early July. The scientists may well have expected that the Proton booster would let them down again, and it was probably to their surprise that it did not. As if to scorn the earlier run of failures, it hurtled Luna 15 moonwards at 02: 54 gmt on l3th July 1969. As had been the case the previous December, the celestial mechanics of the respective launch windows gave the Russians a slight advantage and enabled a launch ahead of Apollo. Once the launch was successful, preparations were put in train for a triumphant parade through Moscow, probably for the 26th or 27th July. An armoured car, covered in the Soviet flag and bedecked with flowers, would bring the rock samples from Vnukuvo Airport into Moscow, through Red Square, past the west gate of the Kremlin and on to the Vernadsky Institute where they would be displayed to a frenzy of the world’s press before being brought inside for analysis [7].


The Ye-8-5

Luna 15 was the first of the third-generation Ye-8 spacecraft to succeed in leaving Earth orbit. Because it was pushing the performance of the Proton rocket to the limit, it took a fairly lengthy trajectory to the moon, in the order of 103 hours, much longer than previous moon probes. It was a tense outward journey, for telemetry indicated that the ascent stage fuel tank was overheating, threatening an explosion. Only when they turned the tank away from the sun did temperatures stabilize.

The mission profile was for a four-day coast to the moon, followed by entry into a circular 100 km lunar orbit. After a day, the orbit would be altered to bring the low point down to 16 km, right over the intended landing point. After another day, the inclination would be adjusted – probably a small manoeuvre – to ensure the lander came in over its landing site at the right angle. Sixteen hours later, after 80 hours in lunar orbit, an engine dead-stop manoeuvre would take place, after which Luna 15 would be right over the landing spot and then make a gentle final descent. After touchdown, the 90 cm long drill arm would engage. Cameras would film the scene for television. After drilling down, the arm would pop the samples back in the ascent stage. After a day on the moon, at 20:54 gmt on 21st July, Luna 15 would blast Earthward for a three-day coast to Earth. Although Luna 15 would leave the moon three hours after the American lunar module, it would fly direct back to Earth. The Americans would still face several difficult hours of rendezvous manoeuvres, transfer­ring equipment, jettisoning the LM and then blasting out of lunar orbit, while all this time Luna 15 would speed Earthward. The Russians still faced a problem, for the return trajectory still took longer than Apollo 11 and would not get the moonrock back to Earth until 20: 54 on the 24th, more than two hours after Apollo would land in the Pacific. Presumably, creative news management would have been called in to present a suitable account of the return to Earth.

Appointed to direct the mission was Georgi Tyulin. Tyulin had played an important role in the early days of the Soviet space programme. A military man, he had directed the Red Army’s Katyusha rocket units in the war. In 1945, he was one of only four people to go to Cuxhaven, Germany, on a military delegation to watch the British fire a captured German V-2 over the North Sea, in the distinguished company of Sergei Korolev, Yuri Pobomonotsev and Valentin Glushko. He had masterminded the transfer east of the V-2 equipment to the launch base at Kapustin Yar on the Volga. Since then he had worked in military institutes, developing launch ranges and tracking systems, rising to lieutenant general.

Luna 15 produced the expected level of consternation in the West. Most observers thought Luna 15 could be a moon sample return mission, but doubted whether the USSR had the technological ability to pull it off. A typical view was this in the British Daily Telegraph.

While the moonshot is regarded as a last-minute attempt to detract from the American effort, it is not thought the Russians can land and bring back samples. The technical complexities are thought to be too great.

But as the Apollo 11 launching drew near – it was now only three days away – one absurd idea rivalled another. Luna 15 wouldjam Apollo 11’s frequencies. It was there to ‘spy’ on Apollo 11 – like the Russian trawlers during NATO naval exercises, presumably. It was there to report back on how the Americans did it. It was a rescue craft to bring back Armstrong and Aldrin if they got stranded. With Apollo 11 already on its way to the moon, excitement about the forthcoming moon landing reached feverish levels. Scientists, experts, engineers, anyone short of a clairvoyant was called in to the television studios to comment on every change of path or signal. Cosmonaut Georgi Beregovoi, who could always be counted on to be indiscreet, let it be known that ‘Luna 15 may try to take samples of lunar soil or it may try to solve the problem of a return from the moon’s surface.’

By 15th July, Luna 15 was exactly halfway to the moon. Jodrell Bank – invariably tracking it – said it was on a slow course to save fuel. There was more speculation as to the ulterior motives of choosing a slow course to the moon to save fuel. Sinister implications were read into the tiniest details.


The Ye-8-5 return cabin

At 10:00 on 17th July, Luna 15 braked into lunar orbit, but entered a much wider orbit than the 100 km circular path planned, one ranging instead from 240 km to 870 km. In most subsequent official accounts of the mission, the parameters of the initial orbit were not published, although the subsequent ones were. This path was far more eccentric than what had been intended, suggesting a considerable underburn at the point of insertion into lunar orbit, one in the order of 700 m/sec rather than the 810 to 820 m/sec of all its successors [8]. There was intense radio traffic from the probe, which beamed back loud signals within 20 min of coming out from behind the moon. Jodrell Bank reported back that its signals were of an entirely new type, never heard before.

Although Moscow news sources reported that everything was normal, in fact ground control was engaged in a desperate struggle to measure the unplanned orbit and find a way to get Luna 15 into its intended path. In other circumstances, this might not have presented problems, but Apollo 11’s well-publicized landing schedule was uppermost in people’s minds. On 18th July, on or around the 10th orbit, ground controllers did manage to bring Luna 15 out of its highly elliptical orbit into one of 220 km by 94 km. This was still more eccentric than the 100 km orbit intended, but the perigee was close enough. The Russians had agreed to relay details of its orbit to the Americans who were worried about its proximity to Apollo 11, and they used Apollo 8 commander Frank Borman as an intermediary. Interestingly, Mstislav Keldysh told him that Luna 15 would remain in this orbit for two days (which was what had indeed been originally intended at orbital insertion), giving an orbital period of 2 hr 35 min

(the one achieved after major orbital adjustment), but left it to NASA to calculate the altitude. Even today, there is a lack of a commonly agreed set of tables for Luna 15.

Manoeuvres of Luna 15

17 July Lunar orbit insertion: 240-870km, 2hr 46min, 126°

18 July First course correction, orbit 10: 220km by 94km, 2hr 35min, 126°

19 July Second course correction, orbit 25: 221 km by 85 km, 2hr 3.5min, 126°

20 July Third course correction, orbit 39: 85 km by 16 km, 1 hr 54min, 127°

21 July Descent, orbit 52: 16: 50 loss of signal

On 19th July, tension rose. Apollo 11, with the Apollo astronauts on board, had now slipped into lunar orbit. The world’s focus shifted to the brave men on Apollo 11 carrying out their final checks before descending to the surface of the moon. Now on its 39th orbit, Luna 15 fired its motor behind the moon to achieve the pre-landing perigee of 16 km. This was its final orbit, for at 16 km there was barely clearance over the mountain tops and was about as low as an orbit could go. The probe could only be preparing to land. The perilune was known to be over the eastern edge of the moon, not far from the Apollo landing site in the Sea of Tranquillity, but farther to the northeast, over a remarkably circular mare called the Sea of Crises. The Luna 15 mission was back on course.


02:54 Launch


13:32 Launch


10: 00 Lunar orbit insertion


13: 00 Apolune lowered to 220 km


13: 08 Perilune to 85 km

17: 22 Lunar orbit insertion


14: 16 Final orbit, perilune 16 km

[19: 00 Original scheduled landing]

20: 19 Landing on moon


15: 50 Loss of signal on landing

[20: 54 Original scheduled lunar liftoff]

17: 54 Take-off from the moon


04: 57 Leave lunar orbit



[20: 54 Original scheduled landing]

16: 50 Splashdown

Luna 15 and Apollo 11: timelines

Luna 15

Apollo 11

Note: times are gmt.

In reality, Luna 15 was now in fresh trouble. When the engineers turned the radar on at the low point of the orbit, 16 km, to verify the landing site, they got problematic readings. Although the Sea of Crises has a flat topography – some of the moon’s flattest – the radar instead indicated quite an uneven surface. Luna 15 was scheduled to land at 19: 00 that evening, the 20th, only an hour before Apollo 11’s Eagle, coming into the Sea of Crises from the north. Tyulin decided to delay the landing for 18 hours in order to retest the radar, try and get a clearer picture of the terrain and calculate the precise moment for retrofire as carefully as possible. This must have been a difficult decision for, by doing so, there was no way that Luna 15 could be back on Earth before Apollo 11. This was the first time that Russia had attempted a soft landing from lunar orbit (indeed, the same could be said for Apollo 11’s Eagle). The retrofire point had to be precisely set in altitude and location: 16 km above the surface, not more than 19 km, not less than 13 km, so as to match the capacity of the engine.

Few people gave much thought to Luna 15 for the next day as they listened in wonder to the descent of Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin to the lunar surface, agonized through the final stages of the descent and then watched the ghostly television images of the two men exploring the lunar surface. On the early evening of 21st July, Armstrong and Aldrin stood in their lunar module going through the final checks before take-off from the moon, a manoeuvre that had never been done before. Just as they did so came a final newsflash from Jodrell Bank. It was to serve as Luna 15’s epitaph:

Signals ceased at 4.50pm this evening. They have not yet returned. The retrorockets were fired at 4.46 pm on the 52nd orbit and after burning for four minutes the craft was on or near the lunar surface. The approach velocity was 480 km/hr and it is unlikely if anything could have survived.

Jodrell Bank identified the Sea of Crises as the landing spot. The dramatic conclusion to Luna 15, just as the lunar module was about to take off, made for great television drama. Imagine, though, if Luna 15 had been able to follow its original schedule, land just before Eagle and take off just afterwards: this was a script beyond the imagination of Hollywood.

Despite his caution and giving the landing his best shot, Tyulin’s Luna 15 impacted 4min into a 6 min burn when it should have still been 3,000 m above the surface. Official explanations ventured that it hit the side of a mountain. Granted that the Sea of Crises is one of the flattest maria on the moon, this seems implausible. More likely, there was a mismatch between the low point of the orbit, 16 km and the imagined surface point (a surface reference point can be difficult to calculate when there is no natural marker, like sea level on Earth). A navigation error was most likely responsible. Another explanation is that the landing motor was late in firing [9]. American military trackers kept a close watch on Luna 15, and their analysis indicated that the Russians had difficulty controlling the pitch axis on Luna 15. Thirty-five years later, their reports strangely remained ‘top secret’.

Many, mostly unconvincing reasons were advanced by the Soviet press to explain away Luna 15. One publication even had the nerve to claim that ‘if it hadn’t happened to coincide with the dramatic Apollo lunar flight, it would hardly have received a mention at all.’ So what was Luna 15 then? Just a new moon probe. A survey ship that was highly manoeuvrable. Indeed, it had a flexibility that the American moonship did not have because it could manoeuvre freely, unlike Apollo which was stuck in narrow equatorial orbit. One wonders if the author – one ‘Pyotr Petrov’ – even believed this himself.

Following the first moon landing, the original Apollo lunar exploration programme was cut back and redirected. The Russian programme, for its part, went through a prolonged and painful reorientation before eventual cancellation. The programme of unmanned lunar exploration was the only substantial part salvaged from its pro­tracted demise. The redirection of the Soviet moon programme may be divided into several phases:

• Winding down of the L-1 Zond around-the-moon programme, 1969-70.

• Testing the LK and the LOK, 1971-2.

• Cancellation of the original N-1 moon-landing programme in 1971.

• Replacement by a revised scheme of lunar exploration, 1971-4, the N1-L3M.

• Suspension of the N-1 in 1974, with its final cancellation in 1976.


The Ye-8 series included two orbiters, Ye-8LS, both being launched successfully. They flew the last of the trio of rovers of orbiters and rovers, although it had originally been intended they go first. Their role was to:

• Take photographs of points of interest so as to identify landing sites for later sample return, rover and manned missions.

• Study mascons, magnetic fields, the composition of lunar rocks, meteorites and cislunar space.

New cameras were developed for the series by Arnold Selivanov. Essentially, he adapted the optical-mechanical camera of Luna 9 and 13 as an orbital panoramic camera in such a way as to make 180° long panoramic sweeps extending to the edge of the moon. The images would be developed on board, scanned at 4 lines/sec and relayed back to Earth. These are called optical-mechanical linear cameras and can be used from moving spacecraft.

Warning of a new moon probe first appeared in January 1971 when predictions of ‘low-flying artificial satellites’ were made that would fly ‘fairly soon’. Sure enough, Luna 19 was launched on 28th September 1971 and entered circular lunar orbit of 140 km at 40°, 2 hr 01 min, on 3rd October. Two sets of details were published for the



first day of operation, indicating either a tweaking of the orbit or a refinement of the earlier figures. Three days later, it settled into steady operational orbit of 127 x 135km, 2hr 01 min, 40°. It is more than likely that Luna 19 kept the large tanks used for orbital insertion and continued to use them for manoeuvres, rather than drop them soon after arrival in lunar orbit. The mission was publicized through periodic reports in Pravda and Izvestia. Although at least five full panoramas were assembled, only one section of one was published, along with an illustration showing the probe being loaded onto its Proton carrier rocket, but the detail is poor.

The mission lasted till 3rd October 1972 and 1,000 communication sessions were held. Luna 19 reported back on magnetic fields, mascons, the lunar gravity field, meteoroids and sent back televised pictures of an area 30°S to 60°S and 20°E to 30°E, the quality of publication much improved compared with Luna 12 in 1966. In February 1972, it swept over the Torrid Gulf near the crater Eratosthenes (11°W, 15°N) and filmed rock-strewn plains above which reared a volcanic-like summit. In order to take such pictures it had dropped into a new, lower orbit of 77 x 385 km, 131 min. Another landing area surveyed was around craters Godin and Agrippa at 10°E, 3°N. Some science reports were issued, noting how Luna 19 had measured solar flares and plasma, mascons, the lunar surface and the composition of its soil. The strength of the magnetic field on the nearside and farside of the moon was compared. Radiation levels were measured, especially their rise and fall during solar flares. Ten solar flares were detected. Some cislunar plasma was detected, but the outcome of this experiment was unclear. An altimeter called Vega was carried to measure the precise distance of the probe to the moon (important during its low perilunes). A gamma ray spectrometer took broad measurements of the composition of the lunar surface. A radio occultation experiment was carried out in May 1972 and this found charged particles about 10 km over the moon. The magnetometer measured magnetic fields as the moon moved in and out of the Earth’s long magnetic tail. The mission lasted 4,000 orbits.


Luna 19 low pass

It was a full year before the next orbiting moon probe, Luna 22, took off on 2nd June 1974. The Luna 22 launch came at an important international moment, for the first Soviet-American conference on lunar exploration took place that month, June 1974. Together, the scientists were able to agree on the approximate date of the moon (4bn years), the nature of its crust (thick), the processes that had shaped it and that the moon shared a broadly similar formation to the Earth.

Ground observatories tracked Luna 22 as far as 250,000 km out. Luna 22 entered almost circular moon orbit at 219 x 221km, 2 hr 10 min, 19.6° four days later. A week later, it swooped down to 25 x 244 km for special photography for four days, before going back up again to 181 x 299 km. Over the next year, Luna 22 several times altered its orbit, displaying both versatility and reliability. In November 1974, coinciding with the arrival in orbit of Luna 23, it operated in an eccentric orbit of 171 x 1,437km out, 3 hr 12 min, then raising its perilune to 200 km and making a minor plane change to 21°. Then, in August 1975 it dipped to a mere 30 km over the surface for a week, going out farther to 1,578 km, before returning to a regular orbit of 96 x 1,286 km out when its mission ended in November 1975.

Lunar orbit photography was done both from altitude and at low points, the latter presumably to search for landing sites, but no details were ever given of the sites surveyed and the following two Lunas (23 and 24) were both aimed at the Luna 15 sites which, presumably, had been mapped before 1969. There were two extended periods in which no manoeuvres were made, presumably so as to give time to measure changes to its path arising from distortions in the moon’s gravitational field.

Few scientific results were released from the mission, although they could have been substantial, as evidenced by the heavy radio traffic to and from the probe over the 18 months of its operation. These results could have covered the surface composition, topography and micometeoroid impacts, which were much fewer in the higher orbit. Lunar topography was mapped carefully through the use of an altimeter and a gamma ray spectrometer analyzed the composition of the surface [12]. Science reports indicated that Luna 22 studied the moon’s gravitational field, micrometeorites (23 impacts recorded) and solar plasma. The probe indicated that a sheath of ionized gas forms 8 km over the lunar surface during sunlight. Eight photographs eventually reached the NASA archives in the 1990s. Ten full panoramas were reportedly assembled.

Подпись: Orbits of Luna 19, 22 Luna 19 2 Oct 1971 (LOI) 2 Oct 1971 7 Oct 1971 28 Nov 1971 2 Dec 1971 Feb 1972 140 x 148 km, 2hr 04min, 40.58°

140 km circular, 2 hr 01 min, 40.58°

127 x 135km

77 x 385km, 2hr 11 min

127 x 135 km

77 x 385km, 2hr 11 min

219 x 221km, 2 hr 10 min, 19°

Подпись: Luna 22 6 June 1974 (LOI) 9 June 1974 13 June 11 Nov 1974 2 Apr 1975 24 Aug 1975 2 Sep 1975 25 x 244km for four days 181 x 299 km

171 x 1,437km, 3hr 12min, 19.55°

200 x 1,409 km, 3hr 12 min, plane change to 21° 30 x 1,578 km

Orbit raised to 96 x 1,286 km, 21°

The orbital paths of the two missions show similarities and differences. Having adjusted its original insertion orbit, Luna 19 operated for the first portion of its mission from a 127 x 135-km near-circular orbit (October-November). At the end of November, it dropped its perilune to 77 km for three days of photographic observa­tions, before coming back to the circular orbit. In February, Luna 19 went back to its lower perilune, where it apparently stayed. Luna 22, by contrast, followed three sets of orbits. Its operating orbit was around 200 km, dropping twice for photographic surveys for periods of less than a week, in late June 1974 and late August 1975. The perilunes were on both occasions much lower than those of Luna 19, this time descending to 25-30 km. In addition, Luna 22 also flew, twice, into an eccentric orbit, out as far as 1,578 km. The precise rationale for these manoeuvres has never been explained.


Orbiting the moon was as essential to a manned mission as a soft-landing. Good photographs were essential to determine landing sites and it was important to learn as much as possible about the lunar orbit environment to ensure there were no nasty surprises (there were).

The Soviet lunar orbiter programme was commissioned by OKB-1 at the same time as the Ye-6 programme. Called the Ye-7 programme, it made very slow progress in comparison. Two partially completed Ye-7 models were turned over by OKB-1 to OKB Lavochkin in summer 1965 during the move between the design bureaux. After the success of Luna 9, attention focused on the lunar-orbiting missions.


Luna 10

Although the Ye-7 photographic equipment was not ready, Russia still wanted to achieve a lunar orbit before the Americans did so with their upcoming lunar orbiter. There was also political pressure to mark the 23rd Communist Party Congress, opening at the end of March 1966 and the first congress of new Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Georgi Babakin and Mstislav Keldysh proposed that the Ye-6 bus be used to fly a lunar orbit mission in time for the congress.

This hastily conceived lunar orbiter was called the Ye-6S. It used the Ye-6 bus, to which was attached not the normal lander, but a pressurized 245 kg cabin that would serve as a lunar orbiter. It is more than likely that the cabin was taken from what would have been an Earth-orbiting satellite in the Cosmos series. Its shape strongly suggests that it may have been one of the Cosmos series built by Mikhail Yangel’s design bureau in Dnepropetrovsk. It was equipped with seven scientific instruments originally planned for the Ye-7, including a magnetometer on a long boom. From the ground, scientists would also measure gases in the lunar environment by examining signal strengths as the probe appeared and reappeared behind the lunar limb, and watch for changes in the orbit due to the lunar gravitational field. Lunar orbit insertion would be performed by the Ye-6 bus. Instead of a 46 sec burn for soft – landing, a much smaller burn was required for orbit insertion. Once in orbit, the pressurized Cosmos cabin would separate for an independent mission.

The first Ye-6S was launched on 1st March 1966. The upper-stage problems reasserted themselves and block L failed to fire the probe – renamed Cosmos 111 — out of Earth orbit. The second Ye-6S eventually got away on 31st March 1966. No sooner was it streaking towards the moon than it was announced that it was directed towards an entirely new objective — lunar orbit. Eight thousand kilometers from the moon, Luna 10 was turned around in its path and its rockets blazed briefly but effectively. They knocked 0.64km/sec off its speed, just enough to let it be captured by the moon’s gravity field. The boiler-shaped instrument cabin separated on schedule 20 sec later. Luna 10 was pulled into an orbit of 349 by 1,015 km, 71.9°, 2 hr 58 min and became the first spacecraft to orbit the moon.

But, first things first, Luna 10 celebrated the latest Russian achievement in style. Celestial mechanics meant that Luna 10 would enter the first of its lunar orbits just as the Communist Party was assembling in Moscow for its morning congress session. As it rounded the eastern edge of the moon, Luna 10’s transmitter went full on and relayed the bars of the Internationale — in turn, broadcast live by loudspeaker direct to the party congress over the static of deep space. It was a triumphant moment and the 5,000 delegates had good reason to stand and cheer wildly. Thirty years later, it was learned that the ‘live’ broadcast was actually a prerecording taken from Luna 10 earlier in the mission. The radio engineers did not trust the live broadcast to work, but, as they later admitted, playing tricks on the Central Committee was a dangerous game and the truth could only be safely revealed in the 1990s when the Central Committee itself was no more.

Luna 10’s mission lasted way into the summer and did not end till 30th May after 56 days, 460 lunar revolutions and 219 communication sessions. Data were trans­mitted on 183 MHz aerials and also on 922 MHz aerials. A stream of data was sent back by its magnetometer, gamma ray spectrometer, infrared radiometer, cosmic ray detector and meteoroid counter. These found a very weak magnetic field around the moon, 0.001% that of Earth (probably a distortion of the interplanetary magnetic field); no lunar magnetic poles; cosmic radiation at 5 particles/cm2/sec; 198 meteoroid impacts, more in lunar orbit than in the flight to the moon; no gaseous atmosphere; and that there were anomalous zones of mass concentrations below the lunar surface disturbing the lunar orbit (mascons). Using its gamma ray spectrometer, Luna 10 began the first initial survey of the chemistry of the moon, enabling a preliminary map to be compiled. Lunar rocks gave a composition signature broadly similar to basalt, but other important clues to its composition were picked out. The gamma ray spec­trometer was used to measure the level of uranium, thorium and potassium in lunar rock. There were significant variations in radiation levels on the moon, being high in

Подпись: Luna 10 enters lunar orbit

the Sea of Clouds, for example. Luna 10’s magnetometer was put on the end of a 1.5 m boom and took measurements every 128 sec for two months. Designer Shmaia Dolginov – who had built the original magnetometer on the First Cosmic Ship – was able to refine the range to between —50 and +50 gammas.

Подпись: Ye-6S Height Base Weight (payload) Orbiting altitude Plane
Подпись: 1.5m 75 cm 245 kg 350 x 1,000 km 71.9°

Luna 10’s final orbit, as measured on 31st May, was 378-985 km, 72.2° – whether the changes were due to mascons or reflect more accurate measurement of the original orbit is not certain. Despite its hasty assembly, the Dnepropetrovsk Cosmos mission had presented a significant haul of science, significantly advancing the knowledge of the moon in only a couple of months.

Luna 10 instruments

Meteorite particle recorder. Gamma spectrometer. Magnetometer with three channels. Solar plasma experiment.

Infrared recorder.

Radiation detector.

Charged particle detector.

Подпись: Luna 10 cabin

The discoveries of Luna 10

Weak magnetic field around the moon, 0.001%.

No lunar magnetic poles.

Cosmic radiation in lunar orbit.

Meteoroid impacts, more in lunar orbit than in the flight to the moon. No gaseous atmosphere.


Basaltic surface composition.


First mission: Alexei Leonov, Oleg Makarov (backup: Anatoli Kuklin).

Second mission: Valeri Bykovsky, Nikolai Rukhavishnikov (backup: Pytor


Third mission: Pavel Popovich, Vitaly Sevastianov (backup: Valeri Voloshin).

Not allocated: Anatoli Voronov, Yuri Artyukin, Valentin Yershov.

It is worth stressing that these selections were never absolutely final. Soviet mission assignments were frequently changed, often up till a short period before take-off, an event not unknown in the United States (e. g., Apollo 13). Nevertheless, they indicate the broad intentions which, all things being equal, would probably have happened. What was the decisive factor in the around-the-moon selection? It seems that the first two around-the-moon crews were selected for the around-the-moon flight on the basis that they would also constitute the first two landing flights. This would give them a flight to the moon and back before they went for the landing mission. This would have been like selecting Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin for Apollo 11 and then deciding to send them, much earlier, on the Apollo 8 mission to the moon. Indeed, there was some discussion that the Apollo 8 crew of Borman, Lovell and Anders should, because of their around-the-moon experience, go for the moon-landing mission as well. In the event, the Americans chose, for the moon landing, men who had not flown to the moon before. The interchangeability of the Soviet around-the-moon crews with the landing crews is also reflected in the allocation to the group of mathematician scientist Valentin Yershov, one of the designers of the Zond navigation system, but whose priceless presence was also available to the moon-landing group.


Even though Apollo 8 had flown around the moon in December 1968, the L-1 programme was not abandoned. There were several reasons. The hardware had been built or was still in construction. So much investment had gone into the programme that it was felt better to test out the technical concepts involved than write them off altogether and deny oneself the benefits of the design work. If these tests went well, a manned moon circumlunar mission could still be kept open as an option. Indeed, with some of the political pressure lifted, designers looked forward to testing their equip­ment without the enforced haste required by American deadlines. There was also an official problem, bizarre to outsiders, which was that the Soviet government lacked a mechanism to stop the moon programme. At governmental level, no one was yet prepared to admit failure or to take responsibility for what had gone wrong [10]. The resolutions of August 1964 and February 1967 remained in effect, unrepealed. According to Alexei Leonov, the government decided that if the next Zond succeeded, then the following one would be a manned flight, even after Apollo 8.

A new Zond was readied in January and left the pad on 20th January 1969. It is unclear what profile it would have flown, for it was outside the normal launch window. The cabin used was the one salvaged from the April 1968 failure [11]. The second stage shut down 25 sec early at 313 sec, but the other second-stage engines completed the burn. During third-stage firing, the fuel pipeline broke down and the main engine switched off at 500 sec, triggering a full abort. The emergency system lifted the Zond cabin to safety, and it was later retrieved from a deep valley near the Mongolian border. As we know, the period January to July 1969 lacked good launch-and-return windows for Zond missions around the moon, so any missions would have to be performed either under less than ideal tracking, transit or lighting conditions, or would have to be fired at a simulated moon, which was probably the case this time.

There were still Zond spacecraft available. At this stage, a perfect circumlunar flight was still required before a manned mission could be contemplated. However, a Russian manned circumlunar flight would now, after Apollo 11, make an even more


A full Earth for Zond 7

invidious comparison after Apollo 8. The chances that the cosmonauts would be allowed to fly were fading.

The Russians took advantage of the first of the new series of lunar opportunities opening in the autumn. Zond 7 left Baikonour on 8th August 1969, only two weeks after Luna 15’s demise and at about the time that the Apollo 11 astronauts were emerging from their biological isolation after their moon flight. Thirty turtles had been ready for the mission and four were selected. Zond 7 was the only one of the series to carry colour cameras. Cameras whirred as Zond skimmed past the Ocean of Storms and swung round the western lunar farside 2,000 km over the Leibnitz Mountains. Zond 7 carried a different camera from its predecessors, a 300 mm camera with colour film taking 5.6 cm2 images. Strikingly beautiful colour pictures were taken

of the Earth’s full globe over the moon’s surface as Zond came around the back of the moon. Like Zond 5, voice transmissions were sent on the way back. Zond 7 headed back to the Earth, skipped like a pebble across the atmosphere to soft land in the summer fields of Kustanai in Kazakhstan after 138 hr 25 min. It was a textbook mission.

How easy it all seemed now. After the total success of Zond 7, plans for a manned circumlunar mission were revived and there were still four more Zond spacecraft in the construction shop – one even turned up in subsequent pictures with ‘Zond 9’ painted in red on the side. The state commission responsible for the L-1 Zond programme met on 19th September and the decision was taken to fly Zond 8 as a final rehearsal around the moon in December 1969, with a manned mission to mark the centenary of Lenin’s birth in April 1970, which would be a big national event.

This plan, which was probably designed to appeal to the political leadership, did not in fact win government approval. There were mixed opinions among those administering the Soviet space programme as to whether a man-around-the-moon programme should still fly. Many had serious reservations about flying a mission that would be visibly far inferior not only to Apollo 11 but to the two Apollo lunar – orbiting flights that preceded it. Others disagreed, arguing that the Soviet Union would, by sending cosmonauts to the moon and back, demonstrate at least some form of parity with the United States. In 1970, few other manned spaceflights were in prospect, so a flight around the moon would at least boost morale. The normally cautious chief designer Vasili Mishin pressed hard for cosmonauts to make the lunar journey on the basis that the experience gained would be important in paving the way for a manned journey to a landing later. The political decision, though, was a final ‘no’, the compromise being that Mishin was allowed to fly one more Zond but without a crew. Two of the cosmonauts in the programme subsequently went on record to explain the decision. The political bosses were afraid of the risk that someone would be killed, said Oleg Makarov, who was slated for the mission. Another cosmonaut involved, Georgi Grechko, felt that the primary reason was political: there was no point in doing something the Americans had already done [12]. In the end, Lenin’s centenary was marked, indirectly and two months after the event, by the 18-day duration mission of Andrian Nikolayev and Vitally Sevastianov.

Zond 8 was eventually flown (20th-27th October 1970). It carried tortoises, flies, onions, wheat, barley and microbes and was the subject of new navigation tests. Astronomical telescopes photographed Zond as far as 300,000 km out from Earth to check its trajectory. Zond 8 came as close as 1,110 km over the northern hemisphere of the lunar surface, the closest of all the Zonds. Two sets of black-and-white images were taken, before and after approach. The 400 mm black-and-white camera of the type used on Zonds 5 and 6 was carried. These were high-density pictures, 8,000 by 6,000 pixels and are still some of the best close-up pictures of the moon ever taken [13].

There have been contradictory views as to whether Zond 8 was intended to return to the Soviet Union or be recovered in the Indian Ocean. The records now show that the recovery in the Indian Ocean was deliberate and not the result of a failure. As we know, the optimum trajectory for a returning Zond was to reenter over the southern hemisphere and make a skip reentry, coming down in the normal land recovery zone (Zond 6 and 7), or, if the skip failed, a ballistic descent into the Indian Ocean (Zond 5).

The alternative approach, one favoured by Mishin, was to come through reentry over the northern hemisphere, with good contact with the ground during this crucial period, but make a southern hemisphere splashdown. This route had not been tried before. Two Soviet writers of the period confirm that the purpose of Zond 8 was indeed ‘to make it possible to verify another landing version with deceleration over the USSR’ [14]. Zond 8 made a smooth northern hemisphere skip reentry and came down in the Indian Ocean 24 km from its pinpoint target where it was found within 15 min by the ship Taman. This seemed to prove Mishin’s point. Six years later, though, cosmonauts Vyacheslav Zudov and Valeri Rozhdestvensky splashed down in a lake and very nearly drowned during a protracted and hazardous recovery.

Analysis of the biological samples found similar results across the series. The turtles were hungry and thirsty after their return: hardly a surprise as they had not been fed or watered during their mission. They were examined for changes to their heart, vital organs and blood. There were some mutations in the seeds as a result of radiation. Overall, radiation dosages seemed to be well within acceptable limits, not posting a danger to cosmonauts and not significantly different from conditions in Earth orbit.

Thus, of nine Zond missions and of six attempts to fly to the moon, only Zond 7 and 8 were wholly successful. The last two production Zonds were never used. Just as the Russians tested their lunar hardware in Earth orbit successfully (Cosmos 379, 382, 398,434), they tested their round-the-moon hardware successfully. We now know that the Russians reached the stage where they could, with a reasonable prospect of success, have proceeded to a manned around-the-moon flight. Years later, Vasili Mishin was asked about his period as chief designer and whether he would have done things differently. ‘Perhaps,’ he said wistfully, ‘I would have insisted on making a loop around the moon, even after the United States, because we had everything ready for it. Maybe we could have done it even before the Americans’ [15].

L-l, Zond series

10 Mar 1967

Cosmos 146

8 Apr 1967

Cosmos 154 (failure)

28 Sep 1967

Launch failure

23 Nov 1967

Launch failure

2 Mar 1968

Zond 4

23 Apr 1968

Launch failure

22 Jul 1968

Pad accident

15 Sep 1968

Zond 5

14 Nov 1968

Zond 6

20 Jan 1969

Launch failure

8 Aug 1969

Zond 7

20 Oct 1970

Zond 8

L-l/Zond series: scientific outcomes

• Characterization of Earth-moon, moon-Earth space.

• Mapping of lunar farside.

• Acceptability of radiation limits for biological specimens.


Подпись: Vladimir Barmin

For the rest of the series, the Ye-8-5 was redesigned as the Ye-8-5M. The chief improvement was a much more versatile rail-mounted drill for obtaining samples. This drill was a radical improvement on its predecessors which could only reach 30 cm and the new one was able to penetrate to a depth of no less than 2.5 m. This assignment went to the General Construction Design Bureau of Vladimir Barmin (1909-1993). Barmin was a close colleague of Sergei Korolev and a member of the original council

of designers of 1946. He was the constructor of the cosmodromes, a task of enormous proportions involving the heaviest Earth-moving and digging machinery in the world. Now he got the assignment to make precision drilling equipment for use on another world.

It is possible that the Ye-8-5M missions benefited from the studies of the lunar gravitational environment by Luna 19 and 22. This time the target was the old Luna 15 site at 13°N, 62°E in the large Sea of Crises, a region never explored by the Americans.

Three Ye-8-5Ms were launched, in October 1974, October 1975 and August 1976. Luna 23 entered a lunar orbit of 94 x 104 km, 1 hr 57 min, 138° (12° more than Luna 15) on 2nd November 1974, adjusted on the 6th to a pre-descent orbit of 17 x 105 km. When it tried to land in the southern part of the Sea of Crises on its 50th revolution, it was severely damaged in the course of the landing. The soil-collecting gear was wrecked, although the descent stage was able to continue transmissions for a further three days and contact was lost on the 9th November. It was normal for the descent craft to continue to transmit on 922 MHz for this period, though for what purpose is uncertain, except to relay radiation measurements back to Earth.

It may or may not have been open to the Russians to send the empty return craft back to Earth anyway, but the manoeuvre was not attempted. A replacement mission was organized, but the next Luna failed a year later due to block D failing to ignite.

Finally, Luna 24 entered a circular orbit of 115 km, 1 hr 59 min, 120° on 14th August, adjusted to a pre-descent orbit of 120 x 12 km on the 17th, the lowest of any pre-landing orbits. Amateur trackers in Sweden and Florida picked up its signals on 922 MHz for 20 min on every orbit as it transmitted back to Earth. Luna 24 came down in darkness close to the wreckage of Luna 23 and, it is suspected, at the exact place of Luna 15’s targeted spot, 17 km from the small crater Fahrenheit. Touchdown was on 18th August 1976 and all went well this time. As the rotary percussion rig drilled into the soil, the sample was stored in a rubber pipe in such a way as to prevent clogging and compression. The drill brought up samples weighing 170 g in a 2.6 m long core sample and had been modified in order to minimize grains falling off.

Back on Earth, the same amateur trackers were listening in to Luna 24’s liftoff [13]. Normally, the ascent rocket would begin transmission on 183.6 MHz from the moment of engine burn and continue to transmit during the ascent from the moon. Luna 16 and 20 had spent 1.1 and 1.15 days on the moon respectively, so the same could be expected of Luna 24. But this is not what happened. Instead, Luna 24 lifted off early, after only 0.95 days. For the first time, the lunar liftoff took place with the spaceship in line of sight of Yevpatoria at the moment of liftoff. Hitherto, these liftoffs had taken place when the moon rocket was not in sight of Yevpatoria (though it could be seen by an Atlantic tracking ship), but the final stage of the return journey was in line of sight, which was more important. This time, the Russians must have felt so confident with the return trajectory that it could be accomplished out of sight of Yevpatoria. The return flight was longer than the previous missions, 3.52 days and the spacecraft came back into the atmosphere in a curving trajectory around the back side of the Earth like Zonds 6 and 7, with a recovery zone in Siberia, one never used



Luna 15, 23, 24 landing sites


before or since. The capsule came down in summertime Siberia 200 km southeast of the tundra town of Surgut and no difficulty was reported in finding it.

Samples were again exchanged with the Americans (3 g) and they were dated to 3.3bn years. Some samples also went to Britain. The post-mission report, given in Pravda on 5th September, related how 60 different chemical elements had been found, dark grey to brown in colour. They appear to be laid down in layers.

Outcome of sample return missions



Landing site




Sep 1970

Luna 16

Sea of Fertility



Feb 1972

Luna 20




Aug 1976

Luna 24

Sea of Crises


Mare core sample


Luna 24 returning to the Earth

Ye-8 series: scientific outcomes

Characterization of lunar soil from three locations: mare, mare core sample and uplands. Characterization, penetration, measurement of lunar soil in situ from two mare locations (Lunokhod, Lunokhod 2), studying density, strength, composition.

Refinement of lunar and interplanetary gravitational field.

Fluxes in radiation levels on moon and in moon orbit over a period of months. Measurement of precise distances between Earth and the moon.

Characterization of local lunar environment in Bay of Rains, Le Monnier.

Mapping of selected areas on lunar nearside.

Measurement of dust levels over daytime lunar surface.

Discovery of thin sheath of ionized gas over sunlight side of lunar surface.



Location of Soviet moon probes


Now that lunar orbit had been achieved ahead of the Americans, the programme could now return to the original, planned Ye-7 lunar-orbiting photography mission. The Ye-7 was renamed the Ye-6LF at this stage. It used the same Ye-6 bus. Instead of the landing cabin, there was a non-detachable cone and box-shaped camera system. Luna 11 carried the same camera system as that flown on Zond 3, which in turn was designed for the 3MV series of Mars and Venus probes over 1964-5. The photographs were expected to cover 25 km2 each, with a resolution of 15 m to 20 m. Once taken, the photographs would be developed and dried. They would then be scanned by a television system on board. Besides the camera system, seven scientific instruments were carried, the same as the Ye-6S, Luna 10. The whole spacecraft weighed around

I, 620 kg.

The first Ye-6LF, with a full photographic suite on board, was eventually launched on 24th August, after the first American lunar orbiter had arrived. Called Luna 11, it left Earth on 24th August and entered moon orbit of 159 by 1,193 km, 27°, 2 hr 58 min. After burning propellant, the mass entering lunar orbit was in the order of 1,136 kg. The Russians had learned their lesson from the Luna 9 episode over the photographs. The Russians faced a choice of sending down pictures only when Yevpatoria was in line of sight, which would take many weeks, or to send them down when stations farther afield, including their own, could pick them up. They decided on the latter course. In a crafty ruse, the decision was taken that transmission would switch rapidly between the two downlink frequencies, too quickly for Jodrell Bank to reconfigure its systems. Moreover, all the photographs were to be taken in the first 24 hours of the mission and transmitted straight away, before this cat-and-mouse technique could be realized or countered.

The Russians reported completion of the mission on 1st October after 38 days, 277 revolutions and 137 communications sessions – but the long-awaited pictures were never published, nor was much else said. Only after glasnost did the Russians admit that the mission had failed in its primary purpose and that the pictures had never reached Earth in the first place. Although the cameras had worked, a problem with the thruster systems meant that the spacecraft had not been pointing at the moon at all, but taking pictures of blank space! This was due in turn to a foreign object getting stuck in one of the thrusters, making orientation impossible. Luna 11 also carried instruments to measure gamma rays, X-rays, meteorite streams and hard cor­puscular radiation. Specifically, it was instrumented to confirm Luna 10’s detection of mascons. The scientific outcomes are not known and few lunar results were attributed to Luna 11. Russian accounts of the scientific results of the 1966 orbiting missions give details of outcomes from Luna 10 and 12, but not 11 [10]. Luna 11 carried, as did its successor, gears and bearings designed to be used on subsequent lunar rovers, to test how they would work in a vacuum.

Luna 12 (22nd October) passed the moon at 1,290 km at a speed of 2,085 m/sec when its retrorocket fired for 28 sec to cut its velocity to 1,148 m/sec to place it into an orbit of 100 by 1,737 km, 3 hr 25 min, in a much narrower equatorial orbit than Luna

II, only 15°. This time, lunar photography was the stated mission objective and


Luna 11, 12 design

presumably this was accomplished on the first day during the low points of the orbital passes. Thrusters were used extensively to point Luna 12 toward landing sites and on the second day the spacecraft was put into a slow roll so as to accomplish the rest of its mission.

The whole mission lasted three months and ended on 19th January 1967 after 85 days, 602 orbits and 302 communications sessions. The imaging, scanner and relay system had a resolution of between 15 m and 20 m and could be transmitted at either 67 lines/frame for 125 sec (quick look) or at 1,100 lines a frame for 34 min (high resolution). The target areas were the Sea of Rains, Ocean of Storms and craters Ariastarcus and Alphonsus: a Soviet photograph released late in 1966 showed cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin, Alexei Leonov, Vladimir Komarov and Yevgeni Khrunov pouring excitedly over its pictures.

The Russians gave only a short account of the Luna 12 mission, the principal one being Luna 12 transmits, published in Pravda on 6th November 1966 and they released only a small number of images from Luna 12, much inferior in quality to the American


Luna 12 images

lunar orbiters and doing less than justice to the 15 m resolution of the cameras [11]. There are some reports that the photographs were so poor that the Russians ended up resorting to assembling the publicly available American Ranger and Lunar Orbiter archive to plan their moon landings; but this could be a traditional Western under­estimate of Soviet photographic capabilities. There is no suggestion that anything went wrong, so the pictures must have been at least up to the standards of Zond 3. Because they were taken at much closer range, they were probably much better. Either way, it is more than likely that there are still some Luna 12 pictures deep in some Moscow archive. In addition to cameras, Luna 12 carried a gamma ray spectrometer, magnetometer, infrared radiometer and micrometeorite detector. Assessments were made of the reflectivity of the lunar surface to infer its density (1,400 kg/m3).

Presumably, the Luna 12 pictures would have been decisive in determining where the Russians would land on the moon. The American lunar orbiters enabled the Americans to narrow down the choice of the first landing to five prospective sites, all near the equator (likewise, Luna 12 flew over the equatorial belt, between 15°N and 15°S, in a much narrower band than Luna 11, which operated between 27°N and 27°S). A team in the Vernadsky Institute, led by Alexander Bazilsvsky (b. 1937), worked on site selection for the manned landing from 1968 and also for soil sample and rover missions. Eventually, the Russians selected three smooth areas for the first manned landing on the moon: [2]


















Подпись: Максутов!наді vm

Ye-6LF (originally Ye-7)



Подпись: 2.7 m 1.5m 1,665 kg 100 x 1,700 km From 15 to 27° 178 to 205 min Weight (payload) Orbiting altitude Angle to equator Orbital period

Подпись: Sites for manned lunar landing

Ye-6 series: instruments specified1


Gamma ray spectrometer.

Gas discharge counters.

Electrode ion traps.

Meteoroid particle detector. Infrared radiometer.

Подпись: 1 Cannot be confirmed that all were flown on each mission.

Low-energy X-ray photon counter. Cameras (Ye-6LF).


Luna 10 and mother ship


Summary of lunar orbiters Ye-6S and Ye-6LF

Подпись: Failure (Cosmos 111) Luna 10 Luna 11 Luna 121 Mar 1966 31 Mar 1966 24 Aug 1966 22 Oct 1966


Meantime, crews were also formed for the landing mission, to fly the LOK and the LK. This included some from the L-1 group. These were also two-person crews, the commander taking the LK down to the surface, making the moonwalk and returning, while the flight engineer circled in lunar orbit. The L-1 experience in flying out to the moon and back was considered important in shaping these selections (a similar consideration was evident in American selections). For the landing mission, the first group of six was formed on 2nd September 1966:

First group of six: Yuri Gagarin, Viktor Gorbatko, Yevgeni Khrunov, Alexei Leonov, Andrian Nikolayev and Vladimir Shatalov.

Yuri Gagarin’s appointment as leader was not as obvious as it looked. Following his flight in April 1961, he had spent several years as a global ambassador for the Soviet Union, a task he had performed with great aplomb. Soviet space chiefs also took the view that he was too valuable to be risked for further space missions. This was a decision he took badly and over 1963-5 he became a more problematical personality and his behaviour declined. In late 1966, he was allowed to resume training and was told he would get an early Soyuz mission, though not the first one. Eventually, he managed to win the assignment of backup to the first Soyuz mission, which eventually flew in April 1967. He took these responsibilities with his old seriousness, his health improved radically and his famous smile reappeared. This assignment meant that he would certainly command the next Soyuz mission.

At this stage there seems to have been a further dispute between those like Kamanin who wanted the cosmonauts to have a hands-on role during their mission; and chief designer Mishin who followed Korolev’s view that there should be a high degree of automation. These arguments were not unknown in the American pro­gramme, though they were resolved at the earliest stage, in favour of the astronauts. By the end of 1967, no progress had been made in the provision of simulators, for they had been cancelled by Mishin. He may have considered them unimportant if most of the flight to and from the moon was under automatic control. Mishin also tried to increase the role of civilian engineers at the expense of the military. In August 1967, he now nominated a group of OKB-1 engineers for the landing mission:

OKB-1 engineer group for the landing mission: Sergei Anokhin, Gennadiy Dolgo – polov, Vladimir Nikitsky (replaced by Vladimir Bugrov), Viktor Patsayev, Valeri Yazdovsky.

The first moves to form a formal moon team for the N1-L3 missions took place in October 1967. The head of the cosmonaut team, General Kamanin, had a preference for veterans and that the LK pilot should have spacewalking experience. This narrowed the field, since only one had such experience, Alexei Leonov, but more would by the time of the mission. The first landing group was selected in December 1967:

Pilots: Alexei Leonov, Andrian Nikolayev, Valeri Bykovsky, Yevgeni Khrunov, Viktor Gorbatko, Boris Volynov, Georgi Shonin, Anatoli Kuklin, Anatoli Filip – chenko, Valeri Voloshin (replaced by Pytor Klimuk).

Engineers: Konstantin Feoktistov, Alexei Yeliseyev, Vladislav Volkov, Valeri Kubasov, Oleg Makarov, Vitally Sevastianov, Nikolai Rukhavishnikov, Valeri Yazdovsky, Georgi Grechko, Vladimir Bugrov.

Training began in January 1968. Some members of the group were already involved in the L-1 Zond programme. This was not seen as presenting a problem, since the landing missions were not then due until 1970-1. The same simulator problem also affected



The moon teams: Moon Team 1: Alexei Leonov, Oleg Makarov



The moon teams: Moon Team 2: Valeri Bykovsky, Nikolai Rukhavishnikov



this group. These cosmonauts did very little training because of the lack of availability of simulators.

Eventually, a 20-person lunar landing group was agreed on 13th March 1968:

Commanders: Valeri Bykovsky, Anatoli Filipchenko, Viktor Gorbatko, Yevgeni Khrunov, Anatoli Kuklin, Alexei Leonov, Andrian Nikolayev, Georgi Shonin, Valeri Voloshin, Boris Volynov.

Engineers: Konstantin Feoktistov, Georgi Grechko, Valeri Kubasov, Oleg Makarov, Vladimir Bugrov, Vitally Sevastianov, Nikolai Rukhavishnikov, Vladislav Volkov, Valeri Yazdovsky, Alexei Yeliseyev. Also assigned: Valentin Yershov.

The cosmonaut team – indeed the whole space programme – suffered a major blow in March 1968 when its leading personality died in a plane crash. Yuri Gagarin had been devastated by the death of Soyuz commander and friend Vladimir Komarov the previous year. Yuri Gagarin had been backup to Komarov and would automatically have been slated to fly the next Soyuz mission, although that had not been decided at that time. After the crash of Komarov he was grounded again, but by the end of 1967, still pressing for a flight, he had been given permission to fly again under strict conditions. On 29th March, experienced instructor Vladimir Seregin and cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin took off on a routine training flight. It seems that their MiG-15 encountered wake turbulence from the jet flow behind an unannounced MiG-21 in the area at the same time, putting their own plane into a spin. They plunged direct into the forest, killing both men outright. His funeral was the biggest there ever was in Moscow. The loss of the young, ever-popular and globally admired Gagarin was a body blow the programme could ill afford.

On 18th June 1968, the final group for the moon landing was selected:

Final group: Valeri Bykovsky, Alexei Leonov, Anatoli Voronov, Yevgeni Khru­nov, Alexei Yeliseyev, Oleg Makarov, Nikolai Rukhavishnikov, Viktor Patsayev.

This was the ‘landing group’ for at least the following year and formed the basis of the assignment for the first two landing crews (the third is more speculative).