On January 2, 1959, the Soviet Union launched Lunik I. This was the first rocket to surpass escape velocity (7 miles per second), so that it should recede from Earth indefinitely. It was aimed in the direction of the Moon, so that it was the first Moon probe. It missed the Moon by a considerable margin and took up an independent orbit about the Sun, so that it became the first artificial planet.
On September 12, 1959, the Soviet Union launched Lunik II, which was better
aimed. It struck the Moon, and for the first time in history, an object made by human beings rested on the surface of another world.
Then, on October 4, 1959, two years to the day after the first satellite launch, the Soviet Union sent Lunik III behind the Moon. It sent back the first photographs of the far side, the side never before seen by human beings.
Forty minutes of photos were taken from a height of 40,000 miles above the lunar surface. The photographs were fuzzy, but they showed that the far side was riddled with craters as the near side was although lacking the relatively crater-free maria, or seas, that existed on the near side. Why the two hemispheres are so different remains a mystery.
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|Publication:||Asimov's Chronology of Science & Discovery, Updated ed.|
|Article Type:||Reference Source|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1994|
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