50 Years Ago: World's First Lunar Probe

Fifty years ago today — September 12, 1959 — the Soviet Union launched the Luna-2 mission on a Vostok rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome. As noted, Luna-2 was the first probe to hit the moon: it impacted east of the Sea of Serenity (Mare Serenitatis).

(Luna-2. Image from NASA’s Space Science Data Center.)

One interesting element: Luna-2 carried a flag with the USSR’s hammer-and-sickle and a “September 1959” banner, making it the first mission to plant a flag on the moon.

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