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Solar System Exploration
Luna 17/Lunokhod 1
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Luna 17
Luna 17/Lunokhod 1 Mission to Earth's Moon

Goals: Luna 17 was designed to deliver a robotic rover called "Lunokhod 1" to the lunar surface. The rover was to travel to various locations under the real-time control of operators on Earth and conduct tests on the lunar soil for 3 lunar days (about 3 Earth months).

Accomplishments: This first successful Soviet rover operated for 11 lunar days, the equivalent of 322 Earth days. It traveled more than 10 km across the lunar surface, during which it transmitted more than 20,000 TV images and 206 high-resolution panoramas, performed 25 soil analyses with its spectrometer, and used a penetrometer to test the soil's mechanical characteristics at more than 500 locations. It also conducted a French experiment (similar to a U.S. Apollo experiment a year earlier) in which laser pulses from two observatories-one Soviet and one French-were reflected back to Earth, enabling measurement of the Earth-Moon distance to within 30 cm.

Key Dates
10 Nov 1970:  Launch
17 Nov 1970:  Lunokhod 1 Rover Deployment (06:28 UT)
Status: Successful
Fast Facts
Luna 17 Facts Lunokhod 1 was the first wheeled unmanned robotic spacecraft to drive on another world.

It was the precursor for the 21st century robots that revolutionized the exploration of Mars.

The rover's operators had to contend with a 5-second delay between sending a command to the rover and seeing the results of the command, due to the round-trip travel time of radio signals at the speed of light.
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Last Updated: 24 Jan 2011