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Luna 24



The last of the Luna series of spacecraft, the mission of the Luna 24 probe was the third Soviet mission to retrieve lunar ground samples (the first two were returned by Luna 16 and 20). After entering a 115 x 115 km lunar orbit with an inclination of 120 degrees, the probe landed in the area known as Mare Crisium (Sea of Crisis) at 12.7142 N, 62.2129 E on 18 August 1976. Using a sample arm and drill, the mission successfully collected 170.1 grams of lunar samples and deposited them into a collection capsule. The capsule was launched from the Moon at 5:25 UT on 19 August and landed at 5:55 UT on 22 August in western Siberia, about 200 km southeast of the town of Surgut, where the samples were collected for scientific study.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

Luna 24 was based on the Ye-8-5 spacecraft body, consisting of two attached stages, an ascent stage mounted on top of a descent stage. The lander stood 3.96 meters tall and had an unfueled landed mass of 1880 kg. With a full load of fuel its launch mass was between 5600 and 5750 kg.

The descent stage was the same as the Ye-8 lower stage for the Lunokhod rovers, a cylindrical body with four protruding landing legs, fuel tanks, a landing radar altimeter, and a dual descent engine complex. The main descent rocket, the KTDU-417, was a throttleable 1920 kg thrust engine used for mid-course corrections, orbit insertion, braking for descent to the surface, and to slow the craft until it reached a cutoff point which was determined by the onboard computer based on altitude and velocity. After cutoff a bank of lower thrust (210 and 350 kg) vernier jets was used for the final landing. The descent stage also acted as a launch pad for the ascent stage. The spacecraft descent stage was equipped with a television camera, radiation and temperature monitors, telecommunications equipment, and a 90 cm extendable arm with a drilling rig for the collection of a lunar soil sample. Communications were via a conical antenna at the end of a boom at 768 and 922 MHz (downlink) and 115 MHz (uplink).

The ascent stage was a smaller cylinder with a spherical top which replaced the Lunokhod rover and housing from the Ye-8 bus. It carried a cylindrical hermetically sealed soil sample container inside a spherical re-entry capsule, mounted on a 1920 kg thrust KRD-61 rocket. Total mass of the ascent stage was 520 kg, of which 245 kg was the nitric acid and UDMH propellant. It was 2 meters tall. The sample return cabin was 50 cm in diameter and had a mass of 39 kg. The KRD-61 could only fire once, for 53 seconds, to put it on a free return trajectory to Earth. Specific impulse of the engine was 313 seconds, it could impart a velocity of 2600 - 2700 m/s to the return craft.

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

Alternate Names

  • 09272
  • Luna24

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1976-08-09
Launch Vehicle: Proton Booster Plus Upper Stage and Escape Stages
Launch Site: Tyuratam (Baikonur Cosmodrome), U.S.S.R
Mass: 4800 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

  • Harvey, B., The new Russian space programme from competition to collaboration, John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, England, 1996.
  • Johnson, N. L., Handbook of soviet lunar and planetary exploration - volume 47 science and technology series, Amer. Astronau. Soc. Publ., 1979.
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