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A 1979 Mars Rover Mission (1970)

15 Mar 2012, 07:15 UTC
A 1979 Mars Rover Mission (1970)
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As evening settled over Baikonur Cosmodrome in Soviet Kazakhstan on November 10, 1970, a Proton rocket thundered to life and began its climb toward space. Six days later, the rocket’s payload, the automated Luna 17 moon lander, soft-landed on broad, flat Mare Imbrium. A team of five operators in the Crimea then remotely drove the Lunokhod 1 rover (image above) down ramps protruding from the lander’s sides onto the moon’s dusty surface.
The solar-powered (but nuclear-heated) 756-kilogram rover, measuring 1.35 meters tall and 2.15 meters across its tub-shaped body, rolled on eight metal wheels at a top speed of 0.1 kilometers per hour. A hinged, bowl-shaped lid lined with electricity-generating solar cells opened to expose a thermal radiator atop the tub; as night approached, Lunokhod 1′s operators commanded it to close the lid to hold in heat and protect its delicate electronics.
Lunokhod 1 had originated in the Soviet manned moon program, though this would not be revealed until the late 1980s. Its role initially had been to scout out the landing site selected for the piloted lunar landing, then stand by until a lander bearing a single cosmonaut arrived. If his lander became damaged so that it could not ...

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