Lunokhod 1

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Lunokhod 1
Soviet moonrover.JPG
Lunokhod 1 rover
Mission type Lunar rover
COSPAR ID 1970-095A
Website Lunar and Planetary Department Moscow University Lunokhod 1 page
Spacecraft properties
Launch mass 5,600 kilograms (12,300 lb)
Dry mass 756 kilograms (1,667 lb) (rover only)
Power 180 watts
Start of mission
Launch date November 10, 1970 (1970-11-10)
Rocket Proton-K/D
Launch site Baikonur 81/23
End of mission
Last contact September 14, 1971 (1971-09-15)
Lunar rover
Spacecraft component Rover
Landing date November 17, 1970, 03:47:00 UTC
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Lunokhod 1 (Луноход, moon walker in Russian; Аппарат 8ЕЛ № 203, vehicle 8ЕЛ№203) was the first of two unmanned lunar rovers landed on the Moon by the Soviet Union as part of its Lunokhod program. The Luna 17 spacecraft carried Lunokhod 1 to the Moon in 1970. Lunokhod 1 was the first remote-controlled robot "rover" to freely move across the surface of an astronomical object beyond the Earth. Lunokhod 0 (No.201), the previous and first attempt to do so, launched in February 1969 but failed to reach orbit.

Rover description

Lunokhod 1 was a lunar vehicle formed of a tub-like compartment with a large convex lid on eight independently powered wheels. Its length was 2.3 metres (7 ft 7 in). Lunokhod was equipped with a cone-shaped antenna, a highly directional helical antenna, four television cameras, and special extendable devices to test the lunar soil for soil density and mechanical properties. An X-ray spectrometer, an X-ray telescope, cosmic ray detectors, and a laser device were also included. The vehicle was powered by batteries which were recharged during the lunar day by a solar cell array mounted on the underside of the lid. To be able to work in vacuum a special fluoride based lubricant was used for the mechanical parts and the electric motors (one in each wheel hub) were enclosed in pressurized containers.[1][2] During the lunar nights, the lid was closed and a polonium-210 radioisotope heater unit kept the internal components at operating temperature. Lunokhod was intended to operate through three lunar days (approximately 3 Earth months) but actually operated for eleven lunar days.

Launch and lunar orbit

Luna 17 was launched on November 10, 1970 at 14:44:01 UTC. After reaching earth parking orbit, the final stage of Luna 17's launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon (1970-11-10 at 14:54 UTC). After two course correction maneuvers (on November 12 and 14), it entered lunar orbit on November 15, 1970 at 22:00 UTC.

Landing and surface operations

The spacecraft soft-landed on the Moon in the Sea of Rains on November 17 at 03:47 UTC. The lander had dual ramps from which the payload, Lunokhod 1, could descend to the lunar surface. At 06:28 UT the rover moved onto the Moon's surface.

The rover would run during the lunar day, stopping occasionally to recharge its batteries via the solar panels. At night the rover hibernated until the next sunrise, heated by the radioactive source.


  • November 17 – 22: The rover drives 197 m, returns 14 close up pictures of the Moon and 12 panoramic views, during 10 communication sessions. It also conducts analyses of the lunar soil.
  • December 9 – 22: 1,522 m


  • January 8 – 20: 1,936 m
  • February 8 – 19: 1,573 m
  • March 9 – 20: 2,004 m
  • April 8 – 20: 1,029 m
  • May 7 – 20: 197 m
  • June 5 – 18: 1,559 m
  • July 4 – 17: 220 m
  • August 3 – 16: 215 m
  • August 31 – September 14: 88 m

End of mission and results

Controllers finished the last communications session with Lunokhod 1 at 13:05 UT on September 14, 1971. Attempts to re-establish contact were finally discontinued and the operations of Lunokhod 1 officially ceased on October 4, 1971, the anniversary of Sputnik 1. During its 322 Earth days of operations, Lunokhod travelled 10,540 metres (6.55 miles) and returned more than 20,000 TV images and 206 high-resolution panoramas. In addition, it performed 25 lunar soil analyses with its RIFMA x-ray fluorescence spectrometer and used its penetrometer at 500 different locations.

Current location

LRO image from 2010

The final location of Lunokhod 1 was uncertain until 2010, as lunar laser ranging experiments had failed to detect a return signal from it since 1971. On March 17, 2010, Albert Abdrakhimov found both the lander and the rover[3] in Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter image M114185541RC.[4] In April 2010, the Apache Point Observatory Lunar Laser-ranging Operation (APOLLO) team from the University of California at San Diego used the LRO images to locate the orbiter closely enough for laser range (distance) measurements. On April 22, 2010 and days following, the team successfully measured the distance several times. The intersection of the spheres described by the measured distances then pinpoint the current location of Lunokhod 1 to within 1 meter.[5][6] APOLLO is now using Lunokhod 1's reflector for experiments, as they discovered, to their surprise, that it was returning much more light than other reflectors on the Moon. According to a NASA press release, APOLLO researcher Tom Murphy said, "We got about 2,000 photons from Lunokhod 1 on our first try. After almost 40 years of silence, this rover still has a lot to say."[7]

By November 2010, the location of the rover had been determined to within about a centimeter. The location near the limb of the Moon, combined with the ability to range the rover even when it is in sunlight, promises to be particularly useful for determining aspects of the Earth-Moon system.[8]

In a report released in May 2013, French scientists at the Cote d'Azur Observatory led by Jean-Marie Torre reported replicating the 2010 laser ranging experiments by American scientists after research using images from the NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. In both cases, laser pulses were returned from the Lunokhod 1 retroreflector.[9]

See also


  1. SVT2, Vetenskapens värld, "Den ryska månbilen", 080211 [1][dead link]
  2. Synlube Lube-4-Life (Moon applications).
  3. Lakdawalla, Emily (March 17, 2010). "And now for Luna 17 and Lunokhod 1". Planetary Report.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "LROC Observation M114185541R". Arizona State University.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. McDonald, Kim (April 26, 2010). "UC San Diego Physicists Locate Long Lost Soviet Reflector on Moon". UCSD. Retrieved April 27, 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Klotz, Irene (April 27, 2010). "Lost and Found: Soviet Lunar Rover".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Coulter, Dauna (June 3, 2010). "Old Moon Rover Beams Surprising Laser Flashes to Earth". NASA.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  9. Scientists Use Laser to Find Soviet Moon Rover,, May 2, 2013

External links