Luna 21/Lunokhod 2
Luna 21 carried the second successful Soviet "8YeL" lunar rover, Lunokhod 2, and was launched less than a month after the last Apollo lunar landing.
Date: 8 Jan 1973
After a midcourse correction the day after launch, Luna 21 entered orbit around the Moon on 12 January 1973. Parameters were 100 x 90 kilometers at 60° inclination.
On 15 January, the spacecraft deorbited and, after multiple engine firings, landed on the Moon at 22:35 UT the same day, inside the LeMonnier crater at 25°51' north latitude and 30°27' east longitude, between Mare Serenitatis and the Taurus Mountains. Less than 3 hours later, at 01:14 UT on 16 January, the rover disembarked onto the lunar surface.
The 840-kilogram Lunokhod 2 was an improved version of its predecessor and was equipped with a third TV camera, an improved eight-wheel traction system, and additional scientific instrumentation.
By the end of its first lunar day, Lunokhod 2 had already traveled further than Lunokhod 1 in its entire operational life.
On 9 May, the rover inadvertently rolled into a crater and dust covered its solar panels, disrupting temperatures in the vehicle. Attempts to save the rover failed, and on 3 June, the Soviet news agency announced that its mission was over.
Before last contact, the rover took 80,000 TV pictures and 86 panoramic photos and had performed hundreds of mechanical and chemical surveys of the soil.
The Soviets later revealed that during a conference on planetary exploration in Moscow, 29 January to 2 February 1973 (that is, after the landing of Luna 21), an American scientist had given photos of the lunar surface around the Luna 21 landing site to a Soviet engineer in charge of the Lunokhod 2 mission. These photos, taken prior to the Apollo 17 landing, were later used by the "driver team" to navigate the new rover on its mission on the Moon.
Credit: NSSDC Photo Gallery