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Any of a series of unmanned Soviet lunar probes, launched between 1959 and 1976, responsible for various lunar firsts. Luna 2 (1959) was the first spacecraft to strike the Moon; Luna 3 (1959) was the first to circle the Moon and took the first photographs of its far side. Luna 9 (1966) made the first successful lunar soft landing. Luna 16 (1970) was the first unmanned spacecraft to carry lunar soil samples back to Earth. Luna 17 (1970) soft-landed a robot vehicle for exploration; it also contained television equipment and sent live pictures of several miles of the Moon's surface. See alsoPioneer; Ranger; Surveyor.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Luna, visit Britannica.com.
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