What Was the First Spacecraft to Land on the Moon?


Quick Answer

The first successful landing on the Moon was achieved by the Luna 2, a Soviet spacecraft; the Luna 2 reached the surface of the Moon in 1959. While on the Moon, the Luna 2 captured photographs, eventually returning to Earth, also bearing the distinction of retrieving the first images from the Moon. Following the return of the Luna 2, many Moon space missions ensued; the United States boasted a second successful Moon mission, launching the Ranger 4 to space in 1962.

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Full Answer

The Soviets welcomed the arrival of the Luna 2 on the Moon with relief; this spacecraft made its way to the Moon following the unsuccessful landing attempts of its earlier cousin, the Luna 1. The Luna 1, also a Soviet spacecraft, headed toward the Moon earlier in 1959. It never reached its destination, but nevertheless recorded valuable scientific data. The Luna 1, equipped with various scientific instruments, revealed a lack of magnetic field around the Moon.

The Luna 2 featured the same shape and electrical design as the Luna 1. Both had cone shapes and contained complex instrumentation, including magnetometers and meteorite detectors. The Luna 2 followed a straight trajectory path towards the Moon. After liftoff, it reached its destination 36 hours later, making its landing on September 13, 1959.

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