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SOVIET PLANETARY MISSIONS

(Text from NASA Spacelink - by Larry Klaes)

SOVIET LUNAR PROBES

LUNA 1 - Lunar impact attempt in 1959, missed Moon and became first craft in solar orbit.

LUNA 2 - First craft to impact on lunar surface in 1959.

LUNA 3 - Took first images of lunar farside in 1959.

ZOND 3 - Took first images of lunar farside in 1965 since LUNA 3. Was also a test for future Mars missions.

LUNA 9 - First probe to soft land on the Moon in 1966, returned images from surface.

LUNA 10 - First probe to orbit the Moon in 1966.

LUNA 13 - Second successful Soviet lunar soft landing mission in 1966.

ZOND 5 - First successful circumlunar craft.

ZOND 6 through 8 accomplished similar missions through 1970. The probes were unmanned tests of a manned orbiting SOYUZ-type lunar vehicle.

LUNA 16 - First probe to land on Moon and return samples of lunar soil to Earth in 1970.

LUNA 20 accomplished similar mission in 1972.

LUNA 17 - Delivered the first unmanned lunar rover to the Moon's surface, LUNOKHOD 1, in 1970. A similar feat was accomplished with LUNA 21/LUNOKHOD 2 in 1973.

LUNA 24 - Last Soviet lunar mission to date. Returned soil samples in 1976.

SOVIET VENUS PROBES

VENERA 1 - First acknowledged attempt at Venus mission. Transmissions lost enroute in 1961.

VENERA 2 - Attempt to image Venus during flyby mission in tandem with VENERA 3. Probe ceased transmitting just before encounter in February of 1966. No images were returned.

VENERA 3 - Attempt to place a lander capsule on Venusian surface. Transmissions ceased just before encounter and entire probe became the first craft to impact on another planet in 1966.

VENERA 4 - First probe to successfully return data while de scending through Venusian atmosphere. Crushed by air pressure before reaching surface in 1967.

VENERA 5 and 6 mission profiles similar in 1969.

VENERA 7 - First probe to return data from the surface of another planet in 1970.

VENERA 8 accomplished a more detailed mission in 1972.

VENERA 9 - Sent first image of Venusian surface in 1975. Was also the first probe to orbit Venus.

VENERA 10 accomplished similar mission.

VENERA 13 - Returned first color images of Venusian surface in 1982.

VENERA 14 accomplished similar mission.

VENERA 15 - Accomplished radar mapping with VENERA 16 of sections of planet's surface in 1983 more detailed than PVO.

VEGA 1 - Accomplished with VEGA 2 first balloon probes of Venusian atmosphere in 1985, including two landers. Flyby buses went on to become first spacecraft to study Comet Halley close-up in March of 1986.

SOVIET MARS PROBES

MARS 1 - First acknowledged Mars probe in 1962. Transmissions ceased enroute the following year.

ZOND 2 - First possible attempt to place a lander capsule on Martian surface. Probe signals ceased enroute in 1965.

MARS 2 - First Soviet Mars probe to land - albeit crash - on Martian surface. Orbiter section first Soviet probe to circle the Red Planet in 1971.

MARS 3 - First successful soft landing on Martian surface, but lander signals ceased after 90 seconds in 1971.

MARS 4 - Attempt at orbiting Mars in 1974, braking rockets failed to fire, probe went on into solar orbit.

MARS 5 - First fully successful Soviet Mars mission, orbiting Mars in 1974. Returned images of Martian surface comparable to U.S. probe MARIN ER 9.

MARS 6 - Landing attempt in 1974. Lander crashed into the surface.

MARS 7 - Lander missed Mars completely in 1974, went into a solar orbit with its flyby bus.

PHOBOS 1 - First attempt to land probes on surface of Mars' largest moon, Phobos. Probe failed enroute in 1988 due to human/computer error.

PHOBOS 2 - Attempt to land probes on Martian moon Phobos. The probe did enter Mars orbit in early 1989, but signals ceased one week before scheduled Phobos landing.

While there has been talk of Soviet Jupiter, Saturn, and even interstellar probes within the next thirty years, no major steps have yet been taken with these projects. More intensive studies of the Moon, Mars, Venus, and various comets have been planned for the 1990s, and a Mercury mission to orbit and land probes on the tiny world has been planned for 2003. How the many changes in the former Soviet Union (now the Commonwealth of Independent States) will affect the future of their space program remains to be seen.


Comments and questions: Jennifer Green
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