Luna 23

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Luna 23 (Ye-8-5M series) was an unmanned space mission of the Luna program, also called Lunnik 23. Luna 23 was a Moon lander mission which was intended to return a lunar sample to Earth. Launched to the Moon by a Proton SL-12/D-1-e booster, the spacecraft was damaged during landing in Mare Crisium (Sea of Crises). The sample collecting apparatus could not operate and no samples were returned. The lander continued transmissions for 3 days after landing. In 1976, Luna 24 landed several hundred meters away and successfully returned samples.

Luna 23 was the first modified lunar sample return spacecraft, designed to return a deep core sample of the Moon’s surface (hence the change in index from Ye-8-5 to Ye-8-5M). While Luna 16 and 20 had returned samples from a depth of 0.3 meters, the new spacecraft was designed to dig to 2.5 meters. After a midcourse correction on 31 October, Luna 23 entered orbit around the Moon on 2 November 1974. Parameters were 104 x 94 kilometers at 138° inclination. Following several more changes to the orbit, the spacecraft descended to the lunar surface on 6 November and landed in the southernmost portion of Mare Crisium. Landing coordinates were 13° north latitude and 62° east longitude. During landing in “unfavorable” terrain, the lander’s drilling device was evidently damaged, preventing fulfillment of the primary mission, the return of lunar soil to Earth. Scientists devised a makeshift plan to conduct a limited science exploration program with the stationary lander. Controllers maintained contact with the spacecraft until 9 November 1974.

  • Launch Date/Time: 1974-10-28 at 14:30:32 UTC
  • On-orbit dry mass: 5600 kg

In Media

  • The Luna 23 is featured in the game Mass Effect (set in the year 2183) as the 'CCCP Luna 23'. The player can choose to strip the probe for parts when it is found on the surface of Earth's moon during a mission. The parts that may be obtained are somewhat bizarre, including cutting-edge 22nd century ammunition, which is unlikely to be present on a space probe over two centuries old.

The Asteroid-like object 2010 KQ is believed to be a rocket that parted the Luna 23 module after launch

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