Soviet Robots in the Solar System

The competition between the United States and the Soviet Union in the Cold War produced one of the greatest adventures of exploration in the history of humankind. As a by-product of military competition between the two countries in weapon delivery systems and laying claim to the propaganda ‘high ground’, both countries applied themselves to the conquest of space by attaching civil payloads to their rockets in order to conduct both human missions in Earth orbit (and to the Moon in the case of the US Apollo program) and robotic missions beyond Earth orbit to the Moon and planets.

This book describes the 20th Century history of the Soviet adventure in robotic exploration of the Moon and planets. Our chronicle includes just those missions launched by the Soviets into deep space whose objective was to explore the Moon or planets. It does not include missions sent into deep space to study the Sun or Earth – Moon space environment. Test missions launched beyond low Earth orbit with operating lunar or planetary spacecraft, such as the Zond series, are included. Launch tests carrying non-operating model spacecraft are not included. We have endeavored to provide a comprehensive and accurate account of all relevant missions conducted between the year 1958, the date of the first Soviet spacecraft launch attempt to the Moon, and 1996. the date of the last Russian deep space mission to be launched in the 20th Century. All missions that were assembled on the launch pad with intent to fly are included. Some launch attempts suffered explosions on the pad, or shortly after booster ignition, or at some point during the flight of the launch vehicle. The Russians were particularly beset by launch vehicle failures, most often involving the upper stages.

There are inconsistencies in the data reported both in Western and Russian sources on Soviet lunar and planetary missions. We have attempted to provide the best possible information based on the published data and on interviews conducted with Russian participants in the former Soviet space program. In some cases w’e have made judgments to select what appears be the most accurate.

Wesley T. Huntress. Jr.

Mikhail Marov January 31, 2011


Wesley Huntress sincerely thanks the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington for his emeritus position, and also the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology, Director Charles Elachi and Chief Scientist Moustafa Chahinc, for their support. Much of this book was written during the time spent at JPL as a Distinguished Visiting Scientist. I would also like to thank several friends who provided assistance, including Viktor Kcrzhanovich. Sasha Zakharov and particularly my co-author Mikhail Marov. Most importantly. I acknow ledge the patience and understanding of my wife Roseann while I w orked on this manuscript.

Mikhail Marov expresses his thanks to the M. V. Keldysh Institute of Applied Mathematics where he has worked for nearly 50 years as an Institute staff member involved essentially in all major endeavors of the Soviet robotic and human space program, and where he served as Scientific Secretary of the distinguished Space Research Council of the Soviet Academy of Sciences (MNTS Kl) that w as hosted by the Keldysh Institute while Mstislav Keldysh, its Director, and President of the Academy of Sciences, was Chairman of the Council. 1 would like to thank all my colleagues in the organizations of industry and Academy of Sciences, in particular in the S. P. Korolev Rocket-Space Corporation Energiya and Scientific-Industrial (NPO) Lavochkin Enterprise with whom 1 worked on space activities resolving numerous problems. I also thank my Russian friends who helped to find out and/or clarify historical data for this book, including Victor Legostaev, Vladimir Efanov. Igor Shevalev. Yury Logachev. Arnold Selivanov and Sasha Zakharov. Special thanks to Olga Devina who assisted me in data compilation and cross-examination. Finally, 1 appreciate Wesley Huntress’s kind invitation to participate in this project and co-author the book, as well as friendly cooperation and mutual understanding while working on the manuscript.

The illustrations in this book are mainly from governmental sources in the US. including NASA, and in Russia including Energiya. NPO-Lavochkin, the Institute for Space Science and the Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry. We found the books ‘S. P. Korolev Rocket-Space Corporation Energiya. 1946-1996’ Volume 1, published by Menonsovpoligraph (1996), S. P. Korolev Rocket-Space

Corporation Energiya at the Boundary of Two Centuries. 1996-200Г Volume 2 (ed. Yu. P. Semenov). OOO Regent Print (2001), and ‘Automatic Space Vehicles for Fundamental and Applied Studies’ published by NPO-Lavochkin, MAI PRINT Moscow (2010) particularly useful. We appreciate the kind permission of V. P. Legostaev, the First Deputy of the President and General Designer of Energiya. and also of V. V. Khartov, the General Designer of NPO-Lavochkin, to reproduce photographs, diagrams and drawings from their organizations either published in their publications or placed on internet sites.

For non-governmental sources every effort has be made to trace the original copyright holders and seek formal permission for all figures that have appeared in previously published works. Л number of these images are from older and out-of­print books, and due to mergers and acquisitions in the publishing industry it has not been possible to track down all potential original copyright holders. We offer our apologies to any that we may have inadvertently overlooked. In all such cases we have cited the publication, author, or artist if known. We have used several unattributed drawings from the 1981 "Space Travel Encyclopedia (in Hungarian) by I. Almas and A. Horvath, others from the 1972 "Robot Explorers’ by Kenneth Gatland with art by John Wood and others, several by Ralph F. Gibbons from the "Soviet Year in Space’ series published by the American Astronautical Society, some drawings by Peter Gorin in Asif Siddiqi s ‘Challenge to Apollo and by an unattributed artist in the NASA "Pioneering Venus’ publication. Many thanks to Asif Siddiqi and Don Mitchell for permission to use material from their print and web publications. Special thanks to James Gary for pennission to use his art work and to Ted Stryk for images from the Soviet program that he has reprocessed with modern methods. Unfortunately, many of the older diagrams and images from the Soviet program are not the best quality for modern publication, but are illustrative of the times. Finally, thanks to David M. Harland for his diligent job of editing and his many improvements to the manuscript.


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