Lunokhod programme

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Lunokhod (Russian: Луноход, "Moonwalker") was a series of Soviet robotic lunar rovers designed to land on the Moon between 1969 and 1977. The 1969 Lunokhod 1A was destroyed during launch, the 1970 Lunokhod 1 and the 1973 Lunokhod 2 landed on the moon and the 1977 Lunokhod was never launched. The successful missions were in operation concurrently with the Zond and Luna series of Moon flyby, orbiter and landing missions. The Lunokhods were primarily designed to support the Soviet manned moon missions and to be used as automatic remote-controlled robots to explore the surface and return pictures. The Lunokhods were transported to the lunar surface by Luna spacecraft, which were launched by Proton rockets. The moon lander part of the Luna spacecraft for Lunokhods were similar to the ones for sample return missions. The Lunokhods were designed by Alexander Kemurdjian[1] at NPO Lavochkin. Not until the 1997 Mars Pathfinder was another remote-controlled vehicle put on an extraterrestrial body.

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Development

Lunokhod's original primary mission was the survey of sites for later manned landings and lunar bases. It was intended that the spacecraft would provide a radio beacon for precision landings of manned spacecraft. Also, the vehicle was designed to be used by a single cosmonaut to move from the primary LK lander to the back-up LK Landers in case of failure. Instead, it was used for remote exploration of the lunar surface after the successful Apollo manned lunar landings.

In mid-1968, at the KIP-10 or NIP-10 (КИП-10 or НИП-10) in the secret village Shkolnoye (ru:Школьное (Крым)), near Simferopol, a lunodrom (moondrome) was built. It covered an area of one hectare (120 meters by 70 meters) and was very similar to some parts of the lunar surface. It was constructed using more than 3,000 cubic meters of soil, and included 54 craters up to 16 m in diameter and around about 160 rocks of various sizes. The whole area was surrounded with bricks, painted in gray and black. It was used to analyze problems with the Lunokhod chassis.[2]

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