Lunokhod 1 Revisited

Lunokhod 1 rover in its final parking place (38.315°N, 324.992°E) on the surface of Mare Imbrium. The inset in the lower left shows an expanded view of the rover. LROC NAC image M175502049RE. [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].

Luna 17, carrying Lunokhod 1, landed on the flood basalt surface of Mare Imbrium on 17 November 1970, after entering orbit on 15 November. Today's Featured Image of Luna 17 and Lunokhod 1 was obtained during a low altitude (33 km) pass providing the highest resolution view yet of the landing site.

Luna 17, the lander that carried the Lunokhod 1 to the surface; debarking ramps for the rover are visible extending down to the surface to the right. Many rover tracks are visible around the lander. LROC NAC image M175502049RE [NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University].
Artist’s conception of Luna 17 on the lunar surface, with the ramps deployed, before the Lunokhod descended to the surface. 

Once Luna 17 landed, ramps were deployed on two sides of the lander allowing for two possible directions for the rover to drive to the surface. In this case, the rover drove down the ramps on the east side of the lander. Rover tracks can be seen extending away from and around the rover. Also note the bright area around the Luna 17 lander; the surface was modified by the exhaust gases from the descent engines such that it appears brighter. This increased contract makes the rover tracks more obvious near the lander.

View of the Luna 17 lander from the Lunokhod rover. The rover descended from the lander on the opposite side; follow the tracks around the lander. The cylindrical object on the right side of the image is part of the rover.  

Lunkohod 1 traveled a total distance of 10.5 km. It was first commanded to drive south from the Luna 17 lander, making a loop across the mare surface, and then returning north to Luna 17. The rover was then directed to proceed farther north, making a small loop to the west, then returning to its track and continuing northward. The payload consisted of a suite of television cameras, a cone penetrometer to determine physical properties of the regolith, and an X-ray spectrometer to determine the chemistry of the regolith. An X-ray telescope and cosmic ray detector were also part of the payload.

Lunokhod 1 rover. The helical rod point to the upper left is a high gain antenna; the cone shaped object is a low gain antenna. The retro-reflector, with the cover opened, is just below the low gain antenna. 

Like Lunokhod 2, Lunokhod 1 carried a French-built laser retroreflector. The vehicle was tracked for a short period during the mission then lost. Once the vehicle was located using LRO/LROC images by the LROC team, it was targeted and recovered using the lunar lasers at the Apache Point Observatory. Because of its location away from the Apollo retroreflectors and Lunokhod 2, recovering Lunokhod 1 is important for lunar geophysical studies.

The rover’s journey across the surface formally ended on 4 October 1971, after 11 lunar day-night cycles (322 Earth-days). Attempts to contact the rover after the lunar night that began on September 14, 1971 were unsuccessful, apparently due to a failure of some component of the rover during the lunar night.

Northern Mare Imbrium showing the location of the Luna 17 landing site and the final position of the Lunokhod 1 rover. LROC WAC image. [NASA/GSFC/ Arizona State University].

Explore the Lunokhod 1 site on your own!

Revisit a previous LROC Lunokhod 1 Featured Image.

Published by Jeff Plescia on 14 March 2012