Mission Type: Rover
Launch Vehicle: 8K82K + Blok D (Proton no. 239-01)
Launch Site: NIIP-5 / launch site 81P
Spacecraft Mass: about 5,700 kg
Spacecraft Instruments: 1) imaging system (2 low-resolution TVs and 4 high-resolution photometers); 2) x-ray spectrometer; 3) penetrometer; 4) laser reflector; 5) radiation detectors; 6) x-ray telescope and 7) odometer/speedometer
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.
The Ye-8 represented the "third generation" of Soviet robotic lunar probes. The basic Ye-8 comprised a lander stage (the "KT") topped off by an eight-wheeled, remote-controlled lunar rover (the "8YeL") for exploring the Moon's surface. Essentially a pressurized magnesium alloy container on wheels, the 8YeL was designed to operate over a period of three lunar days (roughly three Earth months) and collect scientific data from various points on the lunar surface.
This first attempt to put a rover on the Moon was a complete failure. At T+51 seconds, the payload stack disintegrated and the booster eventually exploded. Later investigation indicated that maximum dynamic pressure during the ascent trajectory tore a new payload shroud off at its weakest tension points. Despite an intensive effort, searchers were unable to find the polonium-20 radioactive isotope heat source in the rover. Unconfirmed rumors still abound that soldiers at the launch site used the isotope to heat their barracks during the bitter winter of 1968.