LUNA 1, also known as MECHTA (Russian : Мечта, lit. : Dream),
E-1 NO.4 and First Lunar Rover , was the first spacecraft to reach
the vicinity of the Earth's
Moon , and the first spacecraft to be
placed in heliocentric orbit . Intended as an impactor,
Luna 1 was
launched as part of the Soviet
Luna programme in 1959, however due to
an incorrectly timed upper stage burn during its launch, it missed the
Moon, in the process becoming the first spacecraft to leave geocentric
While traveling through the outer
Van Allen radiation belt
Van Allen radiation belt , the
spacecraft's scintillator made observations indicating that a small
number of high energy particles exist in the outer belt. The
measurements obtained during this mission provided new data on the
Earth's radiation belt and outer space . The
Moon was found to have 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 100–150,000 km. The spacecraft
also marked the first instance of radio communication at the
A malfunction in the ground-based control system caused an error in
the rocket's burntime, and the spacecraft missed the target and flew
Moon at a distance of 5,900 km at the closest point. Luna 1
then became the first man-made object to reach heliocentric orbit and
was then dubbed a "new planet" and renamed Mechta (Dream).
Luna 1 was
also referred to as the "First Cosmic Rocket", in reference to its
achievement of escape velocity.
* 2 Launch
Sodium release experiment
* 4 Malfunction
* 5 See also
* 6 References
* 7 External links
Luna 1 contained radio equipment including a tracking transmitter and
telemetry system, and five instruments to study the
interplanetary space; including a magnetometer , geiger counter ,
scintillation counter , and micrometeorite detector.
Luna 1 was designed to impact the Moon, delivering two metallic
pennants with the
Soviet coat of arms that were included into its
package. This mission was eventually accomplished by
Luna 2 .
Luna 1 was launched at 16:41 GMT (22:41 local time ) on 2 January
1959 from Site 1/5 at the
Baikonur Cosmodrome by a
Luna 8K72 rocket.
Luna 1 became the first man-made object to reach the escape velocity
of the Earth, along with its carrier rocket's 1,472-kilogram (3,245
lb) upper stage, which it separated from after achieving heliocentric
Due to a programming error, the duration of the upper stage's burn
was incorrect, and consequently
Luna 1 failed to impact the Moon. The
spacecraft passed within 5,995 kilometres (3,725 mi) of the Moon's
surface on 4 January after 34 hours of flight. It remains in orbit
around the Sun, between the orbits of Earth and Mars.
SODIUM RELEASE EXPERIMENT
At 00:56:20 UTC on 3 January, at a distance of 119,500 kilometres
(74,300 mi) from Earth, 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) of sodium gas was
released by the spacecraft, forming a cloud behind it to serve as an
artificial comet . This glowing orange trail of gas, visible over the
Indian Ocean with the brightness of a sixth-magnitude star for a few
minutes, was photographed by Mstislav Gnevyshev at the Mountain
Station of the Main Astronomical Observatory of the Academy of
Sciences of the USSR near
Kislovodsk . It served as an experiment on
the behavior of gas in outer space.
A wired press photograph entitled "Rockets / Russian rocket sent into
outer space January 1959 (first rocket fired at moon)" Describes how
Sodium gas cloud was photographed by Morris Alan, the following
text is taken verbatim from the reverse of a press photograph stamped
Kemsley Newspapers 6 Jan 1959.
"The Russian rocket on its way to the moon. Mr Morris Alan, 34 year
old freelance photographer, who was the first man to photograph the
original Russian Sputnik, early this morning took this photograph of
the moon rocket. He and his three assistants saw the rocket from
Kingscat Hill, near Dunfermline, Firthshire, just after 1 AM and held
it in view for almost eight minutes. "It appeared like a cloud on the
horizon near the constellation Virgo", he said. "We photographed it
with three cameras and with a movie camera. It's emerged in the sky
just over the horizon near Edinburgh, but it was a second or two
before we realised what we had". The picture shows the lights of
Edinburgh in the foreground. The rocket is seen as an illuminated
cloud top centre."
Alan died on the 11th February 2015
Luna 1 was meant to crash on the moon; however, due to a malfunction
of the ground control system , the probe missed its target by 5,995
kilometers. Despite this,
Luna 1 still managed to collect vital
information to assist in the understanding of the universe. Its goal
to crash on the
Moon was subsequently achieved by
Luna 2 on September
* Spaceflight portal
Pioneer 4 – a similar
NASA mission launched 3 March 1959, two
months after Luna 1.
* ^ David Darling, The complete book of spaceflight: from Apollo 1
to zero gravity. John Wiley and Sons, 2003, p. 244. ISBN 0-471-05649-9
* ^ A B Brian Harvey, Russian planetary exploration: history,
development, legacy, prospects. Springer, 2007, p.26. ISBN
* ^ David Darling, Internet Encyclopedia of Science.
* ^ "Luna 1".
NASA National Space Science Data Center. Retrieved 4
* ^ A B C "Soviet Space Rocket". Yearbook of the Great Soviet
Encyclopedia (in Russian). Moscow: Sovetskaya Enciklopediya. 1959.
ISSN 0523-9613 . Archived from the original on 2008-01-18.
* ^ Cormack, Lesley B. (15 March 2012). A History of Science in
Society: From Philosophy to Utility (2nd ed.). University of Toronto
Press. p. 342. ISBN 978-1-4426-0446-9 . Retrieved 21 March 2012.
* ^ "Luna 1".
* ^ Dunfermline Press
* ^ http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/luna_e1.htm