Fast Facts: Unnamed Moon Mission (Ye-6 No. 2)
This Soviet lunar lander was stranded in Earth orbit after an engine failed to fire. It burned up in Earth's atmosphere a week later. The mission was not acknowledged at the time by the Soviet Union. Historians have identified it as part of the Soviet Luna series of Moon missions.
|Nation||Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)|
|Spacecraft||Ye-6 (No. 2)|
|Spacecraft Mass||3,131 Pounds (1,420 Kilograms)|
|Mission Design and Management||OKB-1|
|Launch Vehicle||Molniya + Blok L (8K78 no. T103-09)|
|Launch Date and Time||Jan. 4, 1963 / 08:48:58 UT|
|Launch Site||NIIP-5 / Site 1/5|
|Scientific Instruments||1. Imaging System
2. Gas-Discharge Counter
This spacecraft was the first “second generation” Soviet lunar probe (known as Ye-6), designed to accomplish a survivable landing on the surface of the Moon.
The Ye-6 probes were equipped with simple 220 pound (100-kilogram) lander capsules (called the Automatic Lunar Station or Avtomaticheskaya lunnaya stantsiya, ALS) whose primary objective was to send back photographs from the lunar surface. Each egg-shaped ALS was installed on a roughly cylindrical-shaped main bus.
Like the Mars and Venera deep space probes, the Ye-6 Luna spacecraft were also launched by the four-stage 8K78 (Molniya) booster, but modified for lunar missions. This first Ye-6 probe was designed to cruise for about three days before landing on the Moon on Jan. 7, 1963 at 19:55:10 UT.
Like many of its deep space predecessors, the probe failed to escape Earth orbit because of a failure in the Blok L translunar injection stage. There was apparently a failure in a current converter in the power system of the I-100 instrument container (which controlled both the Blok L and the spacecraft), which as a result, failed to issue a command to fire the Blok L engine. The spacecraft remained in Earth orbit, unacknowledged by the Soviets until Jan. 11, 1963.
Siddiqi, Asif A. Beyond Earth: A Chronicle of Deep Space Exploration, 1958-2016. NASA History Program Office, 2018.