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Ye-8/201 Mission to Earth's Moon

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,

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.

Key Dates
19 Feb 1969:  Launch
Status: Unsuccessful
Fast Facts
This mission was the first attempt to use a robotic rover to explore another world.

The rover was destroyed in the booster rocket explosion.

There are rumors Soviet soldiers used the rover's radioative heat source to warm their barracks during a bitter winter.
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Last Updated: 2 Dec 2010