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Luna 13



Luna 13 was the third spacecraft to make a successful soft-landing on the Moon (following Luna 9 and Surveyor 1). The objectives of the mission were to image the lunar surface, study the physical and chemical properties of the lunar regolith, measure surface temperatures, and assess the radiation environment. The mission returned panoramas of the Moon's surface and information on the lunar environment.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

Luna 13 was almost identical to Luna 9, except for some structural changes made in response to the experience gained from landing Luna 9 and the addition of some experiments. The spacecraft comprised two parts, which had a total mass of about 1620 kg and stood 2.7 meters tall. The Luna 13 automatic lunar station that achieved the soft landing was a spherical body with a diameter of 58 centimeters and a mass of 112 kg. The station consisted of a hermetically sealed container, pressurized to 1.2 atmospheres, which held the radio system, programming device, batteries, thermal control system and scientific apparatus. Four antennas that automatically opened after landing were mounted on the outside of the compartment. An airbag amortization system to cushion the landing was also mounted outside the station.

The entire compartment was mounted above a flight stage which held the main KTDU-5A retrorocket, four outrigger vernier rockets, a toroidal aluminum alloy fuel tank, a 90 cm diameter spherical oxidizer tank, fuel pumping system, the nitrogen tank for airbag inflation, and guidance and landing sensor equipment. This equipment included gyroscopes, electro-optical apparatus, the soft-landing radar system, and small orientation engines. Compartments on either side of the main body with a total mass of 300 kg contained guidance radar and the 3 nitrogen jets and gas bottles of the attitude control system for the cruise stage, designed to be jettisoned once the descent was underway. The total propellant load (amine-based fuel and nitric acid oxidizer) was over 800 kg.

The spacecraft was equipped with a lightweight (1.5 kg) scanning panoramic television camera, a KS-17MA corpuscular radiation detector to measure cosmic rays, an ID-3 infrared radiometer to determine temperature, an RP "plotnomer" radiation densitometer to study surface density, a DS-1 "Yastreb" dynamograph to measure landing loads, and a GR-1 "gruntomer" penetrometer to study regolith physical properties and bearing strength. A mirror on an 8 cm turret was mounted on the top of the lander above the camera to allow 360 degree coverage. The scientific container was designed to separate from the flight stage immediately before touchdown. The thermal control system maintained the interior temperature between 19 and 30 degrees C. All operations were battery powered.

Mission Profile

The Luna 13 mission lifted off on 21 December 1966 at 10:17:08 UT from Baikonur Cosmodrome in the U.S.S.R. and injected into a 171 x 223 km orbit with an inclination of 51.8 degrees. The Luna 13 spacecraft was then launched toward the Moon from its Earth-orbiting platform (the Blok L upper stage). Following a planned course correction on 22 December, the retrorockets were fired on 24 December at 17:59 at an altitude of approximately 70 km, and Luna 13 accomplished a soft landing at 18:01 UT (21:01 Moscow time) on December 24, 1966, in the region of Oceanus Procellarum at approximately 18.87 N, 62.05 W (according to TASS communiques). The petal encasement of the spacecraft was opened, antennas were erected, and radio transmissions to Earth began four minutes after the landing at 18:05:30. The landing took place approximately 6.5 hours before sunrise, which occurred at about 00:30 UT on 25 December.

On December 25 and 26, 1966, the spacecraft television system transmitted panoramas of the nearby lunar landscape at different sun angles (6, 19, and 32 degrees). Each panorama required approximately 100 minutes to transmit. The other experiments were also operated. The last transmission session from the spacecraft occurred between 4:05 and 6:13 UT on 28 December 1966 after which the batteries were believed to have run out of sufficient power. On 31 December a TASS communique announced that Luna 13 had completed its mission.

Spacecraft image for illustrative purposes - not necessarily in the public domain.

Alternate Names

  • 02626
  • Luna13
  • Lunik 13

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1966-12-21
Launch Vehicle: Modified SS-6 (Sapwood) with 2nd Generation Upper Stage + Escape Stage
Launch Site: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), U.S.S.R
Mass: 1620 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
Mr. Artem IvankovGeneral ContactLavochkin

Selected References

  • Vinogradov, A. P., et al., Study of the lunar surface by the Soviet Luna 9 and Luna 13 automatic stations, in Proc. of UN Conf. of the Expl. and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, Vienna, Austria, Aug. 14-27, 1968, UN, Paper 68-95769, New York, NY, 1969.
  • Johnson, N. L., Handbook of soviet lunar and planetary exploration - volume 47 science and technology series, Amer. Astronau. Soc. Publ., 1979.

The image at the top of the page shows a model of the Luna 13 landing craft on display at the NPO Lavochkin Museum.
Courtesy of Alexander Chernov and the Virtual Space Museum

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