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Solar System Exploration
Luna 23
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Luna 23
Luna 23 Mission to Earth's Moon

Mission Type: Lander, Sample Return
Launch Vehicle: Proton booster plus upper stage and escape stages, 8K82K + Blok D (Proton-K no. 285-01)
Launch Site: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), USSR, NIIP-5 / launch site 81P
Spacecraft Mass: About 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,

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

Luna 23 was the first modified lunar sample-return spacecraft, designed to return a deep-core sample of the Moon's surface (hence the change in index from Ye-8-5 to Ye-8-5M). While Luna 16 and 20 had returned samples from a depth of 0.3 meters, the new spacecraft was designed to dig to 2.5 meters.

After a midcourse correction on 31 October, Luna 23 entered orbit around the Moon on 2 November 1974. Parameters were 104 x 94 kilometers at 138° inclination. Following several more changes to the orbit, the spacecraft descended to the lunar surface on 6 November and landed in the southernmost portion of Mare Crisium. Landing coordinates were 13° north latitude and 62° east longitude.

During landing in unfavorable terrain, the lander's drilling device was evidently damaged, preventing fulfillment of the primary mission, the return of lunar soil to Earth. Scientists devised a makeshift plan to conduct a limited science exploration program with the stationary lander. Controllers maintained contact with the spacecraft until 9 November 1974.

Key Dates
28 Oct 1974:  Launch
6 Nov 1974:  Landed on Lunar Surface
Status: Unsuccessful
Fast Facts
Luna 23 Facts Luna 23 was designed to dig deeper into the Moon's soil than previous Soviet sample return missions.

The drill was damaged during landing and the spacecraft could not collect samples.

In 1976, Luna 24 landed several hundred meters away and successfully returned samples.
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Last Updated: 29 Nov 2010