Mission Type: Sample Return
Launch Vehicle: 8K82K + Blok DM (Proton-K no. 288-02)
Launch Site: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), , USSR, NIIP-5 / launch site 81L
Spacecraft Mass: c. 5,800 kg
Spacecraft Instruments: 1) stereo imaging system; 2) improved drill for sample collection; 3) radiation detector; and 4) radio-altimeter
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, http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/
Solar System Log by Andrew Wilson, published 1987 by Jane's Publishing Co. Ltd.
Luna 24 was the third attempt to recover a sample from the unexplored Mare Crisium (after Luna 23 and a launch failure in October 1975), the location of a large lunar mascon.
After a trajectory correction on 11 August 1976, Luna 24 entered orbit around the Moon three days later. Initial orbital parameters were 115 x 115 kilometers at 120° inclination. After further changes to its orbit, Luna 24 set down safely on the lunar surface at 06:36 UT on 18 August 1976 at 12°45' north latitude and 62°12' east longitude, not far from where Luna 23 had landed.
After appropriate commands from ground control, the Lander deployed its sample arm and pushed its drilling head about 2 meters into the nearby soil. The sample was safely stowed in the small return capsule, and after nearly a day on the Moon, Luna 24 lifted off successfully from the Moon at 05:25 UT on 19 August 1976.
After an uneventful return trip, Luna 24's capsule entered Earth's atmosphere and parachuted down to Earth safely at 05:55 UT on 23 August 1976, about 200 kilometers southeast of Surgut in western Siberia. Study of the recovered 170.1 grams of soil indicated a laminated type structure, as if laid down in successive deposits.
Tiny portions of the sample were shared with NASA in December 1976. Luna 24 remains the last Soviet or Russian probe to the Moon. An American spacecraft (Clementine) returned to the Moon over 14 years later.