Launch Date May 9, 1965 | 07:49:37 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. 10), Yunik 5, 01366, automatic interplanetary station


This was the second Soviet attempt at a soft landing on the Moon.


The spacecraft crashed into the lunar surface following the failure of its guidance system and an error by ground control due to which the main engine failed to fire.

Key Dates

May 9, 1965 | 08:16:37 UT: Launch

May 10, 1965: Midcourse correction

May 12, 1965 | about 19:10 UT: Collided with Moon’s surfac

In Depth

In May 1965, Luna 5 became the first Soviet probe in two years to head for the Moon. Following a May 10 midcourse correction, a problem developed in a flotation gyroscope (it did not have enough time to warm up properly) in the I-100 guidance control unit. Control was lost so the spacecraft began spinning around its main axis.

Ground controllers regained control of the spacecraft, but at the time of the next maneuver the main retrorocket system failed due to a ground control error in calculating the setpoints. As a result, the spacecraft, though still headed for the Moon, was far off its intended landing site. Problems again cropped up with the I-100 unit so a retrorocket burn could not take place and Luna 5 impacted the lunar surface some 430 miles (about 700 kilometers) from the target point at about 19:10 UT on May 12, 1965, becoming the second Soviet probe to hit the Moon.

A Soviet announcement gave the impact point as the Sea of Clouds at roughly 31 degrees S, 8 degrees W. (Although a later analysis gave a very different estimate of 8 degrees N, 23 degrees W.)

Despite failing at its ultimate objective of a soft landing on the Moon’s surface, the spacecraft was a partial success because, unlike its predecessor Luna 4, it successfully performed a midcourse correction.


Launch Vehicle: 8K78M (no. U103-30)

Spacecraft Mass: 3,254 pounds (1,476 kg)

Spacecraft Instruments:

  1. Imaging system

  2. Radiation detector

Additional Resources

National Space Science Data Center Master Catalogue: Luna 5

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.

Lyubimov, G. P., Measurement of the intensity of cosmic radiation during the flights of automatic interplanetary stations Zond 1, Zond 2, Zond 3, Luna 5, Luna 6, NASA, ST-CR-IS-10655, Oct. 1967.

Lunik 5 and 6, TRW Space Log, TRW Systems, 5, No. 2, 55, Redondo Beach, Calif., 1965.

Shelton, W., Soviet space exploration - the first decade, Arthur Barker Ltd., Unnumbered, London, England, 1969.

Johnson, N. L., Handbook of soviet lunar and planetary exploration - volume 47 science and technology series, Amer. Astronau. Soc. Publ., 1979

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