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Luna 2



Luna 2 was the second of a series of spacecraft launched in the direction of the Moon. The first spacecraft to land on the Moon, it impacted the lunar surface east of Mare Serenitatis near the Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus craters. Luna 2 was similar in design to Luna 1, a spherical spacecraft with protruding antennae and instrument parts. The instrumentation was also similar, including scintillation- and geiger- counters, a magnetometer, and micrometeorite detectors. The spacecraft also carried Soviet "pennants", small metal pentagons with hammer and sickle symbols and a star and Cyrillic "CCCP" engraved on them, attached to metal balls. There were no propulsion systems on Luna 2 itself.

After launch at 6:39:42 UT on 12 September 1959 and attainment of escape velocity, Luna 2 separated from its third stage, which travelled along with it towards the Moon. On 12 September at 18:42:42 UT the spacecraft released a bright orange cloud of sodium gas which aided in spacecraft tracking and acted as an experiment on the behavior of gas in space. On 14 September at 23:02:23 UT (2:02:23 a.m. September 15 Moscow Time) radio signals from Luna 2 abruptly ceased, indicating it had impacted on the Moon, making it the first spacecraft to contact another solar system body. The impact point, in the Palus Putredinus region, is very roughly estimated to have occurred at 0 degrees longitude, 29.1 degrees N latitude, most estimates give it as within the range 29 to 31 N, 1 W to 1 E. Some 30 minutes after Luna 2, the third stage of its rocket also impacted the Moon at an unknown location. The mission confirmed that the Moon had no appreciable magnetic field, and found no evidence of radiation belts at the Moon.

Spacecraft image above credit NASA/NSSDCA (public domain)

Alternate Names

  • 00114
  • 1959 Xi 1
  • Luna2
  • Lunik 2
  • Second Cosmic Rocket

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1959-09-12
Launch Vehicle: Modified SS-6 (Sapwood) with 2nd Generation (Longer) Upper Stage
Launch Site: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), U.S.S.R
Mass: 390.2 kg

Funding Agency

  • Unknown (U.S.S.R)


  • Planetary Science
  • Space Physics

Additional Information

Questions and comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams



NameRoleOriginal AffiliationE-mail

Selected References

  • Shelton, W., Soviet space exploration - the first decade, Arthur Barker Ltd., Unnumbered, London, England, 1969.
  • Harvey, B., The new Russian space programme from competition to collaboration, John Wiley and Sons, Chichester, England, 1996.
  • Clark, E., Soviets hit moon, data flow improves, Space Technol., 2, No. 4, 4-6, Oct. 1959.
Luna 1/2

Luna 1 - 2 Model, credit NASA/NSSDCA (public domain)

Luna 1

Model of Luna 1 on display at Moskva Kosmicheskaya
courtesy of Alexander Chernov - all rights reserved

Other Soviet Lunar Missions

Chronology of Lunar Missions

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