First Far Side Photo
Date: 7 Oct 1959
Russia's Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first views ever of the far side of the moon. The first image was taken at 03:30 UT on 7 October 1959 at a distance of 63,500 km (about 39,457 miles) after Luna 3 had passed the moon and looked back at the sunlit far side. The last image was taken 40 minutes later from 66,700 km (about 41,445 miles).
A total of 29 photographs were taken, covering 70% of the far side. The photographs were very noisy and of low resolution, but many features could be recognized. This is the first image returned by Luna 3, taken by the wide-angle lens. It showed the far side of the moon was very different from the near side, most noticeably in its lack of lunar maria (the dark areas). The right three-quarters of the disk are the far side. The dark spot at upper right is Mare Moscoviense, and the dark area at lower left is Mare Smythii. The small dark circle at lower right with the white dot in the center is the crater Tsiolkovskiy and its central peak. The moon is 3,475 km (about 2,159) in diameter and north is up in this image.
A full gallery of Luna 3 photographs can be found at: http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/imgcat/html/mission_page/EM_Luna_3_page1.html
Credit: NSSDC Photo Gallery