A Brief History
On May 12, 1965, the Soviet space craft, Luna 5, an unmanned spaceship designed to become the first ever Earth launched craft to make a controlled landing on the surface of the Moon, instead crashed when its retro-rockets failed to ignite.
Soviet space agency attempts to land a spacecraft on the Moon had previously failed, both at launch and at landing. After US President John F. Kennedy had boldly claimed the US would land a man on the Moon and safely return him to Earth before the decade was over, the US and the USSR engaged in a space race to the Moon of monumental proportions, with tremendous international prestige at stake.
In 1966, the Soviet Luna 9 space craft made the first successful “soft” landing on the Moon, beating the American Surveyor 1 by 4 months. The US had the last laugh, so to speak, in 1969 when the Apollo 11 mission resulted in the first ever humans to walk on the Moon and return safely to the Earth, fulfilling JFK’s prophecy.
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For more information, please see…
Harland, David. NASA’s Moon Program: Paving the Way for Apollo 11. Springer, 2009.
Reichl, Eugen. The Soviet Space Program: The Lunar Mission Years: 1959–1976. Schiffer Military, 2019.
The featured image in this article, a lunar map by Oaktree b showing the Smart 1 impact site, Ranger 9, Luna 5, Surveyor 7, and Apollo 14 sites, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
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