Luna 1 facts for kids

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Luna 1
Organization: Soviet Union
Mission type: Planetary Science
Flyby of: Moon
Satellite of: Sun
Launch date: January 2, 1959
NSSDC ID: 1959-012A
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Luna 1 (also known as the First Cosmic Ship, Cosmic Rocket and Mechta (Russian: Мечта, Literal translation: Dream)) was a space probe of the Soviet Union. It was the first mission in the Luna programme and it was the first spacecraft to reach the Moon. Luna 1 made some key scientific discoveries and it is one of the best achievements of the Soviet Union space programme.

Design

The spacecraft was sphere-shaped. Five antennae came out of one end. Instrument ports came out of the surface of the sphere. It also had various metallic emblems with the Soviet coat of arms.

Instruments

Luna 1 had radio equipment, a tracking transmitter and a telemetering system for communication with Earth. The spacecraft carried several scientific devices too. These included a magnetometer, a device for measuring magnetic fields, a scintillation counter, a device for detecting high energy particles and a geiger counter, a device for measuring radiation. Luna 1 also carried a micrometeorite detector and other equipment.

Mission

The space probe was launched on January 2, 1959 at Baikonur Cosmodrome by a SS-6 Sapwood rocket. The launch was successful and Luna 1 became the first man-made object ever to reach the escape velocity of the Earth.

On January 3, 1959, the spacecraft released a cloud of sodium gas so that astronomers could track the probe and also to serve as an experiment on the behaviour of gas in space.

Luna 1 was intended to impact the Moon's surface. However, on January 4, 1959, it passed within 5995 km of the Moon and began to orbit the Sun between the orbits of Earth and Mars, where it is still orbiting now, on a 450 day orbit. Thus, Luna 1 became the first spacecraft to orbit the Sun.

Discoveries

The spacecraft made some key discoveries. One is the Moon has no magnetic field. Another is the fact that there is a flow of ionized plasma coming from the Sun, now called solar wind. The probe also found out useful data about Earth's radiation belt, the Van Allen radiation belt.


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