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Luna - Exploring the Moon

Tyneside, UK
2024 Feb 21
Wednesday, Day 52

Curated by:

Selected Luna Missions:


A different view from Ian Ridpath

Summarised by Don P Mitchell

The Mission of Luna 13

Luna 13 was the Soviet Union's second succesful lunar lander and, like its predecessor Luna 9, sent back photographs of the surface as well as testing the lunar soil.

Luna 13 pictureLuna 13's design is similar to Luna 9 but with additional instruments to take measurements of the Moon's surface. Two booms carrying these sensors can be seen in the illustration, deployed by small explosive charges to bring them into contact with the surface. Its camera system has two lenses with a small horizontal separation to permit stereoscopic imaging.

A soil penetrometer was used by Luna 13 to measure the density of the upper layer of the Moon's soil. It was mounted at the end of one of the long booms deployed by the landing capsule. The body of the tube was 35 centimetres in diameter and the short rod with a pointed tip was driven into the Moon by a small explosive charge contained in the cylinder.

Luna 13 penetrometerFollowing a landing softened by inflatable air bags, similar to that of Luna 9, the capsule unfolded its petals and booms and went to work - four minutes later it began to transmit.

When the penetrometer was activated, the rod went 45 centimetres into the Moon and revealed that the surface layer was made up of a soil-like medium with a density around 1.0 grammes per cubic centimetre. The second boom carried instruments to measure mechanical and physical properties, and the cosmic-ray reflectivity of the Moon's surface.

The granular nature of the soil can be seen in the panoramic photograph below. Also to be seen are shadows of both of Luna 13's pair of panoramic camera imaging devices and its rod-shaped radio aerials.

Luna 13 Statistics:

Launch Vehicle: Molniya
Launching Technique: Low orbit around the Earth and then a direct landing trajectory
Mass: approx 1,600 kilogrammes (fully fuelled and including 150kg lander)
Length: 2.5 metres (including lander)
Maximum Diameter: 1.0 metres

Luna 13 panorama

Date Time (UTC) Event
1966 Dec 21 10:16 Luna 13 (E-6M-205) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into 171 x 223 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.8 degrees inclination - its mission is to soft land a camera module onto the lunar surface
1966 Dec 21 11:23 Final stage of Luna 13 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Dec 22 18:41 Luna 13 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Dec 24 17:59 Luna 13 fires its retro-rocket
1966 Dec 24 18:01 Luna 13 soft lands on the Moon surface at 18.87 degrees north, 62.05 degrees west in the Oceanus Procellarum
1966 Dec 24 18:05 Luna 13 begins transmitting from the lunar surface
1966 Dec 24 18:06 An explosive charge forces Luna 13 soil density measuring instrument into the Moon surface
1966 Dec 25 13:53 Luna 13 transmits its first series of TV pictures
1966 Dec 30 Luna 13 batteries fail and radio transmissions cease
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