Bad Astronomy

NASA spies on USSR hardware

I freely admit my headline is misleading, but I had to throw in a little Cold War propaganda given the pictures below. The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted Soviet lunar robots on the Moon, relics from the original Space Race.

On the left is the LRO image of the Luna 17 lander, which touched down on the Moon’s surface in late 1970, delivering the Lunakhod 1 rover (which eventually traveled over 10 km (6 miles) across the Moon’s surface). The image on the right is of Luna 21, which set the Lunakhod 2 rover down in 1973. Note the higher scale, which clearly shows the tracks of the rover as it moved around its base station.

That is so cool! And if you go to those links, there are closeups from the Soviet landers showing what the view looked like from the surface of the Moon all those decades ago.

And for an added bit of coolness, Universe Today’s Nancy Atkinson dug up the story that both rovers were used by the Soviets to celebrate International Women’s Day. I’m old enough to remember how the Soviets were vilified by the American government… and while some of it may have been deserved, they were not the monsters they were portrayed as. I think Nancy’s story is an important one. We may have been opponents in the race to the Moon, and deadly enemies back on Earth, but we’re also all humans. At least in that respect, nothing has changed.