Launch Date Dec. 3, 1965 | 10:46:14 UT
Launch Site Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), USSR, NIIP-5 / launch site 3
Destination Earth's Moon
Type Lander
Status Unsuccessful
Nation Soviet Union
Alternate Names Ye-6 (no. 12), Lunik 8, 01810, automatic interplanetary station

Goals

Like Luna 4 through 7, this was a Soviet attempt at a soft landing on the Moon.

Accomplishments

The mission did complete the experimental development of the star-orientation system and ground control of radio equipment, flight trajectory and other instrumentation. But escaping air from a punctured airbag caused the spacecraft to spin, preventing a proper firing of the retrorockets to slow the spacecraft's descent. It crashed into the lunar surface.

Key Dates

Dec. 3, 1965 | 10:46:14 UT: Launch

Dec. 4, 1965: Midcourse correction

Dec. 6, 1965 | 21:51:30 UT: Collided with Moon’s surfac

In Depth

This Soviet attempt to achieve a lunar soft-landing, nearly suc­ceeded. After a successful midcourse correc­tion on Dec. 4, the spacecraft headed toward the Moon without any apparent prob­lems. But just prior to the planned retro-fire burn, a command was sent to inflate cush­ioning airbags around the ALS lander probe, and a plastic mounting bracket apparently pierced one of the two bags.

The resulting expulsion of air put the spacecraft into a spin of 12 degrees per second. The vehicle momentarily regained attitude, long enough for a nine-second retro-engine firing, but then lost it again. Without a full retro burn to reduce approach velocity sufficient for a survivable landing, Luna 8 plummeted to the lunar surface and crashed just west of the Kepler crater. Impact coordinates were 9 degrees 8 minutes north latitude and 63 degrees 18 minutes west longitude.

Spacecraft

Launch Vehicle: SS-6 (Sapwood) with 2nd Generation Upper Stage + Escape Stage, 8K78 (no. U103-28)

Spacecraft Mass: 3,422 pounds (1,552 kilograms)

Spacecraft Instruments

  1. Imaging system

  2. Radiation detector

Additional Resources

National Space Science Data Center Master Catalogue: Luna 8

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.

Earth's Moon News