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The Once and Future Moon

Scooping the Soviets

8 Aug 2012, 18:40 UTC
Scooping the Soviets
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The radio telescope at England's Jodrell Bank Observatory got the news scoop of the century in the early days of the space race.

Luna 9's view of the lunar surface, the "unauthorized" version (Jodrell Bank Observatory)
Sir Bernard Lovell, the former Director of Britain’s Jodrell Bank Radio Observatory, died recently at the age of 98. Lovell took the lead in establishing Jodrell Bank near Manchester – one of the world’s premier radio telescopes, a facility that played a lead part in the history of the early space age. One of its most memorable episodes was its role in releasing the world’s first images taken from the surface of the Moon.
In late January 1966, the USSR launched the probe Luna 9 to the Moon. The Soviets had tried to soft-land a spacecraft on the Moon several times previously. Each attempt ended in failure. The United States had the Surveyor project under development, but it had yet to see its first launch. As was their custom, Jodrell Bank tracked the Luna 9 during its coast to the Moon, listening in on its telemetry signals and documenting the position and velocity of the probe throughout its flight. On February 3, 1966, with ...

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