The First Moon Rover

Forty years ago today — November 10, 1970 — the Luna-17 mission launched on a Proton-K rocket out of the Baikonur Cosmodrome.

(Sketch of Luna-17. Image from the National Space Science Data Center.)

Luna 17 landed in Mare Imbrium (the “Sea of Rains”), where it deployed the first Moon Rover, Lunokhod-1.

A team on Earth directed Lunokhod-1 by remote control as it took photos and soil samples. The rover was only intended to operate for 3 months — i.e., 3 lunar days — but it ended up working for 11 months, until operations ended on the anniversary of Sputnik-1.

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