Orbital Focus - International Spaceflight Facts and Figures
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Luna - Exploring the Moon

Tyneside, UK
2023 Oct 2
Monday, Day 275

Curated by:

Selected Luna Missions:


A different view from Ian Ridpath

Summarised by Don P Mitchell

The Mission of Luna 12

Unlike Luna 10, the payload of Luna 12 was fully integrated with its flight bus and did not separate when in lunar orbit. The whole vehicle was stabilised. Luna 12 reportedly undertook surveying of the lunar surface, including imaging, as well as radiation and fields measurements in cislunar space.

Luna 12 drawingLuna 12 is no longer in orbit, its path round the Moon having been shifted to such a degree by Lunar Mascons that the vehicle eventually collided with the lunar surface.

A contemporary Soviet drawing illustrates the appearance of Luna 12 and indicates the locations of its major systems.

Features shown are:
1 - Gas containers for orientation system
2 - TV equipment
3 - Temperature control radiator
4 - Radiometer
5 - Instrument compartment
6 - Chemical batteries
7 - Sensors for orientation system
8 - Antennae
9 - Control unit for orientation system
10 - Control thrusters
11 - Retro-rocket

Luna 12 Statistics:

Launch Vehicle: Molniya
Launching Technique: Low orbit around the Earth and then a direct landing trajectory
Mass: 1,640 kilogrammes fully fuelled
Length: 2.5 metres
Maximum Diameter: 1.0 metres

Date Time (UTC) Event
1966 Oct 22 08:42 Luna 12 (E-6LF-102) launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome by Molniya rocket into approx 199 x 212 kilometre orbit around the Earth at 51.9 degrees inclination - its mission is to enter orbit around the Moon
1966 Oct 22 09:45 Final stage of Luna 12 launching rocket fired to place it into a trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Oct 23 19:10 Approx time - Luna 12 rocket engine is used to correct its trajectory towards the Moon
1966 Oct 25 20:45 Approx time - Luna 12 enters a 100 x 1,740 kilometre orbit at 10 degrees inclination and begins its mission of photographing the lunar surface in the area of the likely landing zone of a piloted mission - each photograph contains 1100 scan lines with a maximum resolution of 15-20 metres - it also carries a test version of the electric motor being developed to drive the upcoming Lunokhod lunar rover
1966 Oct 27 Luna 12 transmits to Earth its first images of the Moon surface
1967 Jan 19 Luna 12 batteries fail and radio transmissions cease after 602 orbits around the Moon and 302 active data transmission s
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