Lunokhod 1 (Луноход, moon walker in Russian) was the first of two unmanned lunar rovers landed on the Moon by the Soviet Union as part of its Lunokhod program. The spacecraft which carried Lunokhod 1 was named Luna 17. Lunokhod was the first roving remote-controlled robot to land on another world.
Lunokhod 1 was a lunar vehicle formed of a tub-like compartment with a large convex lid on eight independently powered wheels. Its length was 2.3 metres. Lunokhod was equipped with a cone-shaped antenna, a highly directional helical antenna, four television cameras, and special extendable devices to impact the lunar soil for soil density and mechanical property tests. An X-ray spectrometer, an X-ray telescope, cosmic ray detectors, and a laser device were also included. The vehicle was powered by batteries which were recharged during the lunar day by a solar cell array mounted on the underside of the lid. During the lunar nights, the lid was closed and a Polonium-210 heat source kept the internal components at operating temperature. Lunokhod was intended to operate through three lunar days (approximately 3 Earth months) but actually operated for eleven lunar days.
Launch and lunar orbit
Luna 17 was launched on November 10,1970 at 14:44:01 UTC. After reaching earth parking orbit, the final stage of Luna 17's launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon (1970-11-10 at 14:54 UTC). After two course correction manoeuvers (on November 12 and 14), it entered lunar orbit on November 15, 1970 at 22:00 UTC.
Landing and surface operations
The spacecraft soft-landed on the Moon in the Sea of Rains on November 17 at 03:47 UTC. The lander had dual ramps from which the payload, Lunokhod 1, could descend to the lunar surface. At 06:28 UT the rover moved onto the moon's surface.
The rover would run during the lunar day, stopping occasionally to recharge its batteries via the solar panels. At night the rover would hibernate until the next sunrise, heated by the radioactive source
- November 17,1970 to November 22,1970: The rover drives 197 metres, returns 14 close up pictures of the Moon and 12 panoramic views, during 10 communication sessions. It also conducts analyses of the lunar soil.
- December 9,1970 to December 22,1970: The rover drives 1522 metres
- January 8,1971 to January 20,1971: The rover drives 1936 metres
- February 8,1971 to February 19,1971: The rover drives 1573 metres
- March 9,1971 to March 20,1971: The rover drives more 2004 metres
- April 8,1971 to April 20,1971: The rover drives more 1029 metres
- May 7,1971 to May 20,1971: The rover drives more 197 metres
- June 5,1971 to June 18,1971: The rover drives more 1559 metres
- July 4,1971 to July 17,1971: The rover drives more 220 metres
- August 31,1971 to August 16,1971: The rover drives more 215 metres
- August 31,1971 to September 14,1971: The rover drives more 88 metres
End of Mission
Controllers finished the last communications session with Lunokhod 1 at 13:05 UT on September 14,1971. Attempts to reestablish contact were finally discontinued and the operations of Lunokhod 1 officially ceased on October 4, 1971, the anniversary of Sputnik 1.
The final location of Lunokhod 1 is uncertain by a few kilometers since lunar laser ranging experiments have failed to detect a return signal from it since the 1970s. . Notwithstanding, Lunokhod 1 and the Luna 17 lander were sold by auction for $68500 in 1993 at Sotheby's in New York. The auction catalog listing described the spacecraft as "resting on the surface of the moon".
During its 322 Earth days of operations, Lunokhod traveled 10540 metres and returned more than 20000 TV images and 206 high-resolution panoramas. In addition, Lunokhod 1 performed twenty-five soil analyses with its RIFMA x-ray fluorescence spectrometer and used its penetrometer at 500 different locations.
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