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, 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 half-million-kilometer 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
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.
Sodium release experiment
5 See also
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
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 orbit.
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
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.[dead link] 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."
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 13, 1959.
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.
^ a b Brian Harvey, Russian planetary exploration: history,
development, legacy, prospects. Springer, 2007, p.26.
^ 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
^ "Luna 1".
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Commons:RIA Novosti/Luna 1.
Boris Chertok, "Rakety i liudi: goriachie dni, kholodnoy voyny",
Moscow, "Mashinostroenie", 2nd ed. (1999). Sect. 2–7.
Luna (program) in
Great Soviet Encyclopedia
Great Soviet Encyclopedia (in Russian)
Luna 1 chronology
Luna 1 webpage
Mstislav Gnevyshev's photograph of
Luna 1 in flight
FACTBOX – Reuters – Planned lunar missions
Reuters: CHRONOLOGY – Five key dates in the race to the moon
Luna E-1 No.1
Luna E-1 No.2
Luna E-1 No.3
Luna E-1A No.1
Luna E-3 No.1
Luna E-3 No.2
Luna E-6 No.2
Luna E-6 No.3
Luna E-6 No.6
Luna E-6 No.5
Luna E-6 No.8
Luna E-6LS No.112
Luna E-8 No.201
Luna E-8-5 No. 402
Luna E-8-5 No. 405
Luna E-8-5M No. 412
← 1958 · Orbital launches in 1959 ·
Unnamed · Unnamed
Luna E-1A No.1 Unnamed
Discoverer 4 Explorer S-1
Discoverer 5 Beacon 2
Luna 2 Transit 1A
Luna 3 Explorer 7
Discoverer 8 Pioneer P-3
Payloads are separated by bullets ( · ), launches by pipes (
). Manned flights are indicated in bold text. Uncatalogued launch
failures are listed in italics. Payloads deployed from other
spacecraft are denoted in brackets.
Spacecraft missions to the Moon
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Apollo 15 Subsatellite (PFS-1)
Apollo 16 Subsatellite (PFS-2)
Lunar Orbiter 1
SELENE (Kaguya, Okina & Ouna)
Chang'e 5-T1 (Service Module)
Chang'e 5-T1 (Xiaofei)
Apollo Lunar Module
Apollo Lunar Module x6
ALSEP (x5) and EASEP (x1)
Luna 25 (2019)
Luna 26 (2021)
Luna 27 (2022)
Luna 28 (2025)
Chang'e 4 (2018)
Hakuto / AngelicvM (2019)
Chang'e 5 (2019)
Chang'e 6 (2020)
Blue Origin Blue Moon
International Lunar Network
Lunar Mission One
Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway
Lunar Orbital Station
European Lunar Explorer
SpaceX lunar tourism mission
Colonization of the Moon
Exploration of the Moon
Google Lunar X Prize
List of Apollo astronauts
List of lunar probes
List of artificial objects on the Moon
List of missions to the Moon