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Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Luna 2 impacted Moon's surface - this day 63 years ago !!

For enriching your GK or for attending interviews or with some interest in History / Astronomy .. .. you for sure have read / read this again and again !

"The Eagle has landed…"   Its primary objective  was to complete a national goal set by President John F. Kennedy on May 25, 1961: perform a crewed lunar landing and return to Earth.  Apollo 11 was  launched from Cape Kennedy on July 16, 1969, carrying Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit of 114 by 116 miles. An estimated 650 million people watched Armstrong's televised image and heard his voice describe the event as he took " small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind" on July 20, 1969.


History teaches us so many things .. big and mighty Empires have fallen down – old order changeth !  .. .. Mali, presently in doldrums was once a great Empire.  One need not travel back so many years – half a century ago, Soviet Union posed a big challenge – but, now  !!

After an economic recession in 2020, Mali’s economic recovery in 2021 was weaker than initially projected and poverty continued to increase.   Real GDP grew by 3.1 percent in 2021 which was just above the population growth rate estimated at 3 percent. As a result, per capita GDP stagnated in 2021 and the national poverty rate remained at 44.4 percent with an additional 50,000 people in extreme poverty.

The Mali Empire thrived in West Africa from c. 1235 to 1670. The empire was founded by Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Musa (Musa Keita).   At its peak, Mali was the largest empire in West Africa, widely influencing the culture of the region through the spread of its language, laws and customs.  The empire began as a small Mandinka kingdom at the upper reaches of the Niger River.  The conquest of Sosso in  1235 gave the Mali Empire access to the trans-Saharan trade routes. Not much is read about this Empire nor about Mali, these days !!

The Soviet Union, [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics -  USSR] ), was a transcontinental country that spanned much of Eurasia from 1922 to 1991. It was a federal union of twenty one republics; ] in practice, both its government and its economy were highly centralized until its final years. It was a one-party state governed by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, with the city of Moscow serving as its capital as well as that of its largest and most populous republic; it spanned-  eleven time zones.  The country's roots lay in the October Revolution of 1917, when the Bolsheviks, under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, overthrew the Russian Provisional Government that had earlier replaced the House of Romanov of the Russian Empire. The Bolshevik victory established the Russian Soviet Republic.  Following Lenin's death in 1924, Joseph Stalin came to power.   Stalin conducted the Great Purge from 1936–1938 to remove his actual and perceived political opponents. After the outbreak of World War II, Germany invaded the Soviet Union. The combined Soviet civilian and military casualty count—estimated to be around 27 million people—accounted for the majority of losses of Allied forces. In the aftermath of World War II, the territory taken by the Red Army formed various Soviet satellite states.

The beginning of the Cold War saw the Eastern Bloc of the Soviet Union confront the Western Bloc of the United States, with the latter grouping becoming largely united in 1949 under NATO and the former grouping becoming largely united in 1955 under the Warsaw Pact. Following Stalin's death in 1953, a period known as de-Stalinization occurred under the leadership of Nikita Khrushchev. The Soviets took an early lead in the Space Race with the first artificial satellite, the first human spaceflight, and the first probe to land on another planet (Venus).  

It was an era, when  Americans were believing and propagating that they were making progress in the Space Race and that although the Soviet Union might have had larger rockets, the United States had better guidance systems.  All these were laid to rest when the Soviets were able to impact Luna 2 on the Moon. At that time the closest Americans had come to the Moon was about 37,000 kilometres (23,000 mi) with Pioneer 4.  Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, on his only visit to the United States, gave President Dwight D. Eisenhower a replica of the Soviet pennants that Luna 2 had just placed onto the lunar surface.  

The Luna programme (from the Russian word Луна "Luna" meaning "Moon"), occasionally called Lunik by western media, was a series of robotic spacecraft missions sent to the Moon by the Soviet Union between 1959 and 1976. Fifteen were successful, each designed as either an orbiter or lander, and accomplished many firsts in space exploration. They also performed many experiments, studying the Moon's chemical composition, gravity, temperature, and radiation. Twenty-four spacecraft were formally given the Luna designation, although more were launched.  


Luna 2, originally named the Second Soviet Cosmic Rocket and nicknamed Lunik 2 was the sixth of the Soviet Union's Luna programme spacecraft launched to the Moon, E-1 No.7. It was the first spacecraft to reach the surface of the Moon, and the first human-made object to make contact with another celestial body. 

The spacecraft was launched on 12 September 1959 by the Luna 8K72 s/n I1-7B rocket. It followed a direct path to the Moon. In addition to the radio transmitters sending telemetry information back to Earth, the spacecraft released a sodium gas cloud so the spacecraft's movement could be visually observed. On 13 September 1959, it impacted the Moon's surface east of Mare Imbrium near the craters Aristides, Archimedes, and Autolycus.  Once the vehicle reached Earth's escape velocity, the upper stage was detached, allowing the probe to travel on its path to the Moon.   

Interesting ! 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
13th Sept. 2022


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