Luna 24


Luna 24
Луна-24 3 (24432633921) cropped.jpg
Model of Luna 24
Mission typeLunar sample return
COSPAR ID1976-081A
SATCAT no.9272
Mission duration13 days
Spacecraft properties
ManufacturerGSMZ Lavochkin
Launch mass5,800 kg (12,800 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date9 August 1976, 15:04:12 (1976-08-09UTC15:04:12Z) UTC
Launch siteBaikonur 81/23
End of mission
Landing date22 August 1976, 17:55 (1976-08-22UTC17:56Z) UTC
Landing site61°3′36″N 75°54′0″E / 61.06000°N 75.90000°E / 61.06000; 75.90000,[1] 200 km (120 mi) SE of Surgut, Western Siberia
Orbital parameters
Reference systemSelenocentric
Semi-major axis6,492.8 kilometres (4,034.4 mi)
Eccentricity0[citation needed]
Periselene altitude115 kilometres (71 mi)
Aposelene altitude115 kilometres (71 mi)
Inclination120 degrees
Period119 minutes
Lunar orbiter
Orbital insertion14 August 1976
Lunar lander
Landing date18 August 1976, 06:36 UTC
Return launch19 August 1976, 05:25 UTC
Landing site12°42′52″N 62°12′46″E / 12.7145°N 62.2129°E / 12.7145; 62.2129Coordinates: 12°42′52″N 62°12′46″E / 12.7145°N 62.2129°E / 12.7145; 62.2129[2]
Sample mass170 grams (6.0 oz)
← Luna 23

Luna 24 was a robotic probe of the Soviet Union's Luna programme. The last of the Luna series of spacecraft, the mission of the Luna 24 probe was the third Soviet mission to return lunar soil samples from the Moon (the first two sample return missions were Luna 16 and Luna 20). The probe landed in Mare Crisium (Sea of Crises). The mission returned 170.1 grams (6.00 oz) of lunar samples to the Earth on 22 August 1976.


Luna 16 101 g[3] 1970
Luna 20 30 g[4] 1972
Luna 24 170.1 g[5] 1976

Luna 24 was the third attempt to recover a sample from the unexplored Mare Crisium, the location of a large lunar mascon (after Luna 23 and a launch failure in October 1975). After a trajectory correction on 11 August 1976, Luna 24 entered lunar orbit three days later. Initial orbital parameters were 115 by 115 kilometres (71 by 71 mi) at 120° inclination. After further changes to its orbit, Luna 24 set down safely on the lunar surface at 06:36 UT on 18 August 1976 at 12°45' north latitude and 62°12' east longitude, not far from where Luna 23 had landed.[6] Exact landing location (12.7145° N, 62.2097° E) was determined by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter probe orbital cameras in 2012.[7]

Under command from ground control, the lander deployed its sample arm and pushed its drilling head about two metres into the nearby soil. The sample was safely stowed in the small return capsule, and after nearly a day on the Moon, Luna 24 lifted off successfully at 05:25 UT on 19 August 1976. After an uneventful return trip, Luna 24's capsule entered Earth's atmosphere and parachuted safely to land at 17:55 UT on 22 August 1976, about 200 kilometres (120 mi) southeast of Surgut in western Siberia. Study of the recovered 170.1 grams (6.00 oz) of soil indicated a laminated type structure, as if laid down in successive deposits. The Soviet Union swapped a gram of the mission sample for a lunar sample from NASA in December 1976.[6] Luna 24 was the last lunar spacecraft to be launched by the Soviet Union. It was also the last spacecraft to make a soft landing on the Moon until the landing of China's Chang'e 3 on 14 December 2013, 37 years later. For over 44 years it was also the last Lunar sample return mission until China's Chang'e 5 in December 2020.

Detection of water in returned samples

In February 1978 Soviet scientists M. Akhmanova, B. Dement'ev, and M. Markov of the Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytic Chemistry published a paper claiming a detection of water fairly definitively.[8][9] Their study showed that the samples returned to Earth by the probe contained about 0.1% water by mass, as seen in infrared absorption spectroscopy (at about 3 µm wavelength), at a detection level about 10 times above the threshold.[10]

See also


  1. ^ "Soviet and Russian Lunar Exploration" (PDF). p. 314. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2019-07-29.
  2. ^ Samuel Lawrence (24 September 2013). "LROC Coordinates of Robotic Spacecraft - 2013 Update". Archived from the original on 2015-05-09. Retrieved 2015-06-09.
  3. ^ "NASA - NSSDC - Spacecraft - Details". Archived from the original on 2017-09-12. Retrieved 2015-11-08.
  4. ^ "NASA - NSSDC - Spacecraft - Details". Archived from the original on 2009-07-31. Retrieved 2015-11-08.
  5. ^ "NASA - NSSDC - Spacecraft - Details". Archived from the original on 2016-09-29. Retrieved 2015-11-08.
  6. ^ a b Solar System Exploration: Missions: By Nation: USSR: Luna 24 Archived 30 April 2015 at the Wayback Machine Retrieved: 16 November 2016. |url-status =dead
  7. ^ Plescia, Jeff (16 March 2012). "Mare Crisium: Failure then Success". LROC News System. Archived from the original on 2013-12-08. Retrieved 2020-12-02.
  8. ^ Akhmanova, M; Dement'ev, B; Markov, M (February 1978). "Water in the regolith of Mare Crisium (Luna-24)?". Geokhimiya (in Russian) (285).
  9. ^ Akhmanova, M; Dement'ev, B; Markov, M (1978). "Possible Water in Luna 24 Regolith from the Sea of Crises". Geochemistry International. 15 (166).
  10. ^ Crotts, Arlin (2012). "Water on The Moon, I. Historical Overview". arXiv:1205.5597v1 [astro-ph.EP].

External links

  • Zarya - Luna 24 chronology
  • NASA NSSDC Master Catalog
  • "Soviet Moon Lander Discovered Water on The Moon in 1976". The Physics arXiv Blog. Technology Review. 30 May 2012.
  • Mare Crisium: Failure then Success, article showing LROC images of Luna 23 and 24 on the lunar surface