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Luna 13
Luna 13 Mission to Earth's Moon

Mission Type: Lander
Launch Vehicle: Modified SS-6 (Sapwood) with second-generation upper stage + escape stage; 8K78M (no. N103-45)
Launch Site: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), USSR; NIIP-5 / launch site 1
Spacecraft Mass: 1,620 kg at launch, 112 kg surface capsule
Spacecraft Instruments: 1) TV cameras; 2) infrared radiometer; 3) penetrometer; 4) radiation densitometer; and 5) radiation detector
Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24, by Asif A. Siddiqi

National Space Science Data Center,

Solar System Log by Andrew Wilson, published 1987 by Jane's Publishing Co. Ltd.

Luna 13 became the second Soviet spacecraft to successfully soft-land on the surface of the Moon. The probe landed in the Ocean of Storms at 18:01 UT on 24 December 1966, between the Krafft and Seleucus craters at 18°52' north latitude and 62°3' west longitude.

Unlike its predecessor, the heavier Luna 13 lander (113 kilograms) carried a suite of scientific instruments in addition to the usual imaging system. A three-axis accelerometer within the pressurized frame of the lander recorded the landing forces during impact to determine the soil structure down to a depth of 20 to 30 centimeters. A pair of spring-loaded booms was also deployed. Both were equipped with titanium-tipped rods that were driven into the ground with a powerful force by small explosive charges to measure soil density (found at roughly 0.8 grams per cubic centimeter).

Four radiometers recorded infrared radiation from the surface, indicating a noon temperature of about 117°C, while a radiation detector indicated that radiation levels would be less than hazardous for humans. The lander returned a total of five panoramas of the lunar surface, showing a smoother terrain than seen by Luna 9.

One of the two cameras (intended to return stereo images) failed, but this did not diminish the quality of the photographs. After a fully successful mission, contact was lost at 06:13 UT on 28 December when the onboard batteries were exhausted.

Key Dates
21 Dec 1966:  Launch
Status: Successful
Fast Facts
Luna 13 Facts Luna 13 was the Soviet Union's second successful unmanned lunar landing.

It was the last mission in the U.S.S.R.'s first phase of lunar exploration.

The next successful Soviet lunar lander would be the robotic sample-return mission, Luna 16 (pictured), in 1970 -- a year after NASA's Apollo 11 and 12 astronaut landings.
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Last Updated: 29 Nov 2010