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a Russian lunar rover

I wonder where all the photos are from these early Russian space missions

Lunokhod roverEven though a lot of fuss was made about the glorious American lunar landings by NASA (and rightly so), at about the same time there were some quite good Russian lunar landings, which were kept quiet. For example Lunokhod, a one ton truck on 8 wheels, trundling around on the lunar surface in 1970. Yes, I know it looks like a bathtub, and I know it looks like the Teletubbies Noo-Noo, but nevertheless, it was a spacecraft that landed on the moon and drove around for months taking tens of thousand of photographs, contemporary with the Apollo astronauts leaping about and planting a flag.

Where are these photographs now I wonder. Someone must have got them, surely?! I know the Soviets were known for being secretive people, but they'd not put a truck on the moon and then hide the pictures.

Some day or moonlit night someone will find those tv pictures and will put them online.

This is getting a bit like the Domesday Machine Mystery!

Anyway, here are a few helpful online references:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunokhod_1

Don P. Mitchell: www.mentallandscape.com/C_CatalogMoon.htm

Lunokhod at Moscow University: http://selena.sai.msu.ru/Home/Spacecrafts/Lunokhod1/lunokhod1e.htm

Ted Stryk: (someone please let us know where the new link really is)

Phaeton Group: www.phaetongroup.com/lunokhod.php (optimistic of a breakthrough soon after 2007/05/20, so let's see how they're getting on in a while)

Guy Hurst: www.ast.cam.ac.uk/~ipswich/Miscellaneous/Lunokhod.htm - gone

Enigma Productions: Pictures of the Russia Space Museum

As a footnote to this remarkable piece of space exploration history, the old Lunokhod rover and its lander were sold, still parked on the moon, by auction at Sothebys. How about that for the ultimate secondhand car with one careful owner?!

The future of space exploration with machines is looking good! Pathfinder and other vehicles on Mars, especially Curiosity, some cameras on the surface of Venus, and that remarkable but underpublicised spectacular landing by Cassini Hugeness on Titan (see Saturn), plus some great developments in astronomy in space, for example Hubble, Lisa, Swift, Voyager? These spacecraft flying on distant voyages and driving around on planets are not as "unmanned" as the term suggests, and it is more that we have evolved more into a tool-using species and can have a virtual presence on other worlds.

Lunokhod has a few things in common with Curiosity, but these are from different decades, and Lunokhod was driven from a console on Earth LIVE. In contrast, Curiosity on Mars has to be its own helmsman, even though it is captained from Earth.

Photograph from the Russian Space Museum copyright © Enigma Productions, reproduced with permission at Zyra TV, part of Zyra's website UK and Zyra International NET