Launch Date April 2, 1963 | 08:16:37 UT
Launch Site Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Russia Launch Site 1
Destination Earth's Moon
Type Lander
Status Partial Success
Nation Soviet Union
Alternate Names Ye-6 (no. 4), Lunik 4, 00566


This was the last of three Soviet spacecraft designed to make a survivable landing on the Moon in 1963. The 220-pound (100 kilogram) egg-shaped lander carried an imaging system and an instrument to measure radiation.


Although this spacecraft successfully left Earth orbit, a navigation failure sent it hurtling past the Moon at a distance of 5,282 miles (8,500 kilometers) instead of landing on the Moon as planned.

Key Dates

April 2, 1963 | 08:16:37 UT: Launch

April 6, 1963: Missed the Moon

In Depth

Luna 4 was the Soviet Union’s third and final attempt to perform a soft landing on the Moon. During the spacecraft’s coast to the Moon after leaving Earth orbit, Luna 4’s Yupiter astronavigation system experienced some kind of major failure, probably in its thermal control system.

The failure left the spacecraft in an incorrect attitude, making the probe unable to perform its planned midcourse correct. Ground controllers were still able to communicate with the spacecraft but, with no midcourse correction, the spacecraft missed the Moon by about 5,200 miles (about 8,500 kilometers) on April 6.

Luna 4 eventually ended up in a heliocentric (sun-centered) orbit. The mission was, however, partially successful in that in left Earth orbit, whereas previous Soviet lunar landers had failed to do so.


Launch Vehicle: 8K78 (no. G103-11)

Spacecraft Mass: 3,135 pounds (1,422 kilograms)

Spacecraft Instruments:

  1. Imaging system

  2. Radiation detector

Additional Resources

National Space Science Data Center Master Catalogue: Luna 4

National Space Science Data Center: Soviet Lunar Missions

Selected References

Siddiqi, Asif A. Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, NASA, 2002

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