Launch Date Feb. 19, 1969
Launch Site Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Russia |
Launch Site 81P
Destination Earth’s Moon
Type Lander/Rover
Status Unsuccessful
Nation Soviet Union
Alternate Names

Goals

This was the Soviets' first attempt to land a rover on the Moon. It was designed to collect data from various points on the lunar surface over the course of three lunar days (about three Earth months).

Accomplishments

None. The payload stack disintegrated 51 seconds after launch and the booster eventually exploded.

Key Dates

Feb. 19, 1969: Launch

In Depth

The Ye-8 represented the "third generation" of Soviet robotic lunar probes. The basic Ye-8 comprised a lander stage (the "KT") topped off by an eight-wheeled, remote-controlled lunar rover (the "8YeL") for exploring the Moon's surface. Essentially a pressurized magnesium alloy container on wheels, the 8YeL was designed to operate over a period of three lunar days (roughly three Earth months) and collect scientific data from various points on the lunar surface.

This first attempt to put a rover on the Moon was a complete failure. At T+51 seconds, the payload stack disintegrated and the booster eventually exploded. Later investigation indicated that maximum dynamic pressure during the ascent trajectory tore a new payload shroud off at its weakest tension points. Despite an intensive effort, searchers were unable to find the polonium-20 radioactive isotope heat source in the rover. Unconfirmed rumors still abound that soldiers at the launch site used the isotope to heat their barracks during the bitter winter of 1968.

Spacecraft

Launch Vehicle: 8K82K + Blok D (Proton no. 239-01)

Spacecraft Mass: about 5,700 kg

Spacecraft Instruments:

  1. imaging system (2 low-resolution TVs and 4 high-resolution photometers)
  2. x-ray spectrometer
  3. penetrometer
  4. laser reflector
  5. radiation detectors
  6. x-ray telescope
  7. odometer/speedometer

Additional Resources

NSSDC Soviet Lunar Missions History

Selected References

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

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