September 28, 2004

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Unknown Luna 19


Image Credit: Phil Stooke

Unknown Luna 19

On September 28, 1971, Luna 19 blasted off and nearly disappeared from history. The mission was successful, after a fashion, but coming after the stunning successes of Apollo 11, 12, 14 & 15, and having only lackluster results, no one seemed to notice this little lunar orbiter. Luna 19 was the first of a new (and final!) generation of heavy lunar satellites, originally designed to carry astronauts to the Moon. Luna 19 made more than 4000 orbits of the Moon over the year it operated, collecting data on the lunar gravity and magnetic fields and on plasma around the Moon. It carried a camera which scanned from horizon to horizon, looking obliquely to each side and vertically beneath it. Few images from the Luna programs have been released. The three Luna 19 images shown here in map-projected form indicate the general low quality - compare them to the excellent US Lunar Orbiter photos of 1966-7. From left to right the images show the craters Metius, Zagut and Eratosthenes. From Lunik 3 - the first probe ever to photograph a moon or planet - to the end of the Soviet lunar programs they had huge rockets and miserable imaging! Part of this text (the nice parts!) and the images come from Phil's forthcoming International Atlas of Lunar Exploration which will become a collector's item!

Chuck Wood

Related Links:
E-8LS Heavy Soviet Lunar Orbiter

Yesterday's LPOD: Petavius Naked!

Tomorrow's LPOD: Mountains at the Pole

Author & Editor:
Charles A. Wood


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