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Kind: Lunar flyby

State: Successful

Place: Moon

Operator: OKB-1



Duration: 18 days (launch day to last contact day)

Mission Ending

Last Contact: 22 October 1959 (1959-10-23)


Rocket: Luna 8K72 (No I1-8)

Kind: OKB-1

Manufacturer: OKB-1

Mass: 278.5 kilograms (614 lb)

Launch Site: Baikonur 1/5


1º Flyby: the Moon


Reference System: Geocentric


"The journey, not the arrival, matters; the voyage, not the landing." - Paul Theroux

Luna 3, or E-2A No.1 (Russian: Луна 3) was a Soviet spacecraft launched in 1959 as part of the Luna programme. It was the first-ever mission to photograph the far side of the Moon and the third Soviet space probe to be sent to the neighborhood of the Moon. Though it returned rather poor pictures by later standards, the historic, never-before-seen views of the far side of the Moon caused excitement and interest when they were published around the world, and a tentative Atlas of the Far Side of the Moon was created after image processing improved the pictures. These views showed mountainous terrain, very different from the near side, and only two dark, low-lying regions which were named Mare Moscoviense (Sea of Moscow) and Mare Desiderii (Sea of Desire). Mare Desiderii was later found to be composed of a smaller mare, Mare Ingenii (Sea of Cleverness), and several other dark craters. The reason for this difference between the two sides of the Moon is still not fully understood, but it seems that most of the dark lavas that flowed out to produce the maria formed under the Earth-facing half. Luna 3 was followed by the United States with Ranger 7, Ranger 8, and Ranger 9.