An explosion destroyed this Soviet Moon mission shortly after launch.


This was the last of the “first generation” Soviet probes to the Moon. Like its immediate predecessor, it was designed to photograph the far side of the Moon.

Unfortunately, the probe never left Earth’s atmosphere. Instead, immediately after launch, at T+10 seconds, the launch vehicle began to fall apart. Its Blok D strap-on actually began separating 0.02 seconds after launch.

As each strap-on fell away, parts of the booster landed separately over a large area near the launch site, breaking up between 21.15 and 40.3 seconds of launch. Thundering explosions broke windows in many nearby buildings.


Siddiqi, Asif A. Beyond Earth: A Chronicle of Deep Space Exploration, 1958-2016. NASA History Program Office, 2018.

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