Encyclopedia Astronautica

Lunokhod 1 / Ye-8-LS
Mature First Generation Soviet Space Systems
Credit: © Mark Wade
Lunokhod Poster
The Lunokhod unmanned lunar surface rover.
Credit: Lavochkin
Lunokhod lander
Credit: NASA
Lunokhod bus
Lunokhod bus / Ye-8-LS
Credit: NASA
Russian lunar rover. Study 1965. The Lunokhod lunar rover was delivered to the surface by the Ye-8 robotic lander.

Lunokhod's original primary mission was survey of sites for later manned landings and lunar bases. It was also intended that the spacecraft would provide a radio homing beacon for precision landings of later manned spacecraft. It was originally designed for use by a single cosmonaut as well for emergency by a single cosmonaut between primary and back-up LK lunar landers in case of failure of the primary lander. Instead it was used to explore the lunar surface by robot after the successful American manned lunar landings, and provided part of the legend that the Soviet Union would not risk cosmonauts in space and had never sought to send a man to the moon.

The design had its origins in Korolev's L2 project of 1963. This evolved within OKB-1 to the globular Ye-8 lunar rover design of 1965 before further development of unmanned planetary spacecraft was passed to the Lavochkin bureau. There the design was refined and modified for a single launch by a Proton launch vehicle. By the time the spacecraft flew, America had won the manned moon race and mission objectives were to collect images of the lunar surface, examine ambient light levels to determine the feasibility of astronomical observations from the Moon, perform laser ranging experiments from Earth, observe solar X-rays, measure local magnetic fields, and study mechanical properties of the lunar surface material.

The lander had dual ramps by which the Lunokhod descended to the lunar surface. The lander and rover together weighed 1814 kg on the lunar surface.

The Lunokhod itself consisted of a tub-like compartment with a large convex lid on eight wheels. It stood 135 cm high, 170 cm long and 160 cm wide, with a mass of 840 kg. The 8 wheels each had an independent suspension, motor and brake. The rover had two speeds, ~1 km/hr and ~2 km/hr. Lunokhod was equipped with four TV cameras, three of them panoramic cameras. The fourth was mounted high on the rover for navigation, and could return high resolution images at different rates (3.2, 5.7, 10.9 or 21.1 seconds per frame). These images were used by a five-man team of controllers on Earth who sent driving commands to the rover in real time. Communications were through a cone-shaped omni-antenna and a highly directional helical antenna. Power was supplied by a solar panel on the inside of a round hinged lid which covered the instrument bay. A Polonium-210 isotopic heat source was used to keep the rover warm during the lunar nights. Scientific instruments included a soil mechanics tester, solar X-ray experiment, an astrophotometer to measure visible and UV light levels, a magnetometer deployed in front of the rover on the end of a 2.5 m boom, a radiometer, a photodetector (Rubin-1) for laser detection experiments, and a French-supplied laser corner-reflector. Lunokhod was designed to operate through three lunar days (three earth months) but greatly exceeded this in operation.

More... - Chronology...

Associated Countries
See also
  • Ertel , Ivan D; Morse , Mary Louise; et al, The Apollo Spacecraft Chronology Vol I - IV NASA SP-4009, NASA, 1966-1974. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Chertok, Boris Yevseyevich, Raketi i lyudi, Mashinostroenie, Moscow, 1994-1999.. Web Address when accessed: here.
  • Kamanin, N P, Skritiy kosmos, Infortext, Moscow, 1995.
  • Siddiqi, Asif A, The Soviet Space Race With Apollo, University Press of Florida, 2003.

Lunokhod Chronology

1965 September 18 - .
  • Lunokhod - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Korolev. Program: Voskhod. Flight: Voskhod 4. Spacecraft: Lunokhod. The cosmonauts visit Lyapin's institute to view progress in developing a lunar rover. During the day Kamanin has a series of unpleasant conversations with Korolev. The military want the second Voskhod flight changed from a 15-day mission with a crew of two and a physician aboard to a 20-25 day mission, with a single pilot cosmonaut and a variety of military experiments. Korolev responds that there is no unity of support within the VVS for the mission or manned spaceflight; and that he can get along quite well without the VVS, and its cosmonaut training centre, and the VVS pilot-cosmonauts.

1969 January 8 - .
  • Plan for Soviet lunar and planetary launches to answer America's Apollo program during 1969 approved. - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Babakin. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8; Lunokhod; Luna Ye-8-5; Soyuz 7K-L1; Venera 2V (V-69); Mars M-69. Summary: Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of Soviet Ministers Decree 19-10 'On Work on Research of the Moon, Venus and Mars by Automatic Stations--work on automated lunar and interplanetary spacecraft' was issued.. Additional Details: here....

1970 November 18 - .
  • Luna 17 lands on moon. - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Chelomei. Program: Luna. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8; Lunokhod. Summary: Luna 17 / Lunokhod have landed on the Sea of Storms on the moon. Chelomei is assisting Kamanin in securing funds for the water basin for zero-G training, further simulators, etc..

1970 November 23 - .
  • First lunar rover. - . Nation: USSR. Program: Luna. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8; Lunokhod. Summary: Lunokhod 1 is ready to go on its first lunar drive..

1970 November 25 - .
  • NASA Administrator discussed significance of Russian unmanned lunar probes to Apollo. - . Nation: USA. Program: Apollo. Spacecraft: Luna Ye-8; Lunokhod. George M. Low, Acting NASA Administrator, discussed the significance of unmanned lunar probes Luna XVI and XVII launched by the U.S.S.R. September 12 and November 10. Luna XVI had brought lunar samples back to earth and Luna XVII had landed an unmanned Lunokhod roving vehicle on the moon's surface. Low stated in a letter to Chairman Clinton P. Anderson of the Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences that while the two launches were impressive their contributions to science and technology were relatively minor. Low suggested that the main lesson to be learned from the two launches specifically and the U.S. and U.S.S.R. space programs in general was that while the Soviet launch rate was increasing that of the United States was decreasing. These trends in the two countries' space programs should be a cause of concern if the United States was interested in maintaining a position of leadership in space.

1971 January 16 - .
  • Lunokhod 1 has completed its lunar activities. - . Nation: USSR. Related Persons: Keldysh. Spacecraft: Lunokhod. Summary: Kamanin's son, also a VVS pilot, is being sent to Hanoi for service. Kamanin writes a letter to Keldysh on the naming of lunar craters for deceased cosmonauts..

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