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A name for the moon.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
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An image of the planetary goddess Luna, the moon, from a fifteenth-century German calendar. Reproduced by permission of Fortean Picture Library.


(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Luna is the Roman name for the Moon, and the root of the adjective lunar. Due to the increasingly eccentric behavior that insane people exhibit during the full moon, the Moon became linked with insanity—hence the terms lunatic and lunacy.

The Astrology Book, Second Edition © 2003 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the name of the Soviet lunar research program and of the series of unmanned spacecraft launched by the USSR to the moon beginning in 1959. The first-generation probes made the flight from the earth to the moon without preliminary insertion into earth orbit, without trajectory corrections, and without braking in the space near the moon (Luna 1, Luna 2, Luna 3). More advanced methods involving preliminary insertion into an orbit about the earth and translunar launching from this orbit, midcourse corrections, and active maneuvers (braking) in the space near the moon (Luna 4 through Luna 14) were used with the second-generation probes.

The third generation of unmanned probes was still more advanced. Methods of earth orbiting and launching from this orbit, midcourse corrections, and insertion into an orbit about the moon with the possibility of repeated corrections of the parameters, braking, and accurate soft landing of the probes at designated sites on the moon were used during the flights of Luna 15 through Luna 21. By 1972 the unmanned spacecraft had returned the first scientific data on the moon (Luna 1, Luna 2, Luna 3); developed a technique of soft landing, conducted tests of new systems, and delivered unmanned roving research stations to the surface of the moon (Luna 4, Luna 8, Luna 9, Luna 13, Luna 15, Luna 18); orbited the moon (Luna 10, Luna 11, Luna 12, Luna 14, Luna 19); collected soil samples from different parts of the moon and returned them to earth (Luna 16, Luna 20); and placed the Lunokhod 1 and Lunokhod 2 roving vehicles (Luna 17 and Luna 21, respectively) on the moon’s surface.

On Jan. 2, 1959, Luna 1 became the first unmanned spacecraft in the world to be launched to the vicinity of the moon. After passing at a distance of 5,000-6,000 km from the moon, on Jan. 4, 1959, the probe left the region of the earth’s attraction and became the solar system’s first artificial planet, with a perihelion of 146.4 million km and an aphelion of 197.2 million km. The final weight of the last (third) stage of the launch vehicle with the Luna 1 probe was 1,472 kg. The weight of the Luna 1 container and equipment was 361.3 kg. The probe carried radio equipment, a telemetry system, an instrument unit, and other equipment. The instruments were designed to study the intensity and composition of cosmic rays, the gaseous component of interplanetary matter, meteoric particles, the corpuscular radiation of the sun, and the interplanetary magnetic field. Equipment used to produce a sodium cloud—an artificial comet—was installed in the last stage of the rocket. On January 3 a visible golden-orange sodium cloud was formed at a distance of 113,000 km from the earth. Escape velocity was reached for the first time during the flight of Luna 1. The measurements made provided valuable data on the earth’s Van Allen radiation belt and on outer space. Strong streams of ionized plasma—the solar wind—were recorded for the first time in interplanetary space. In the world press, the Luna 1 probe was called Mechta (Dream).

Launched on Sept. 12, 1959, Luna 2 made the first flight to another celestial body. On September 14 the spacecraft and the last stage of the launch vehicle reached the surface of the moon to the west of the Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity) near the craters of Aristillus, Archimedes, and Autolycus, conveying pennants bearing the USSR State Seal. The final weight of the probe, including the last stage of the launch vehicle, was 1,511 kg; the container with the scientific and measuring equipment weighed 390.2 kg. Analysis of the scientific data obtained by Luna 2 showed that the moon has virtually no magnetic field or radiation belt of its own.

Luna 3 was launched on Oct. 4, 1959. The final weight of the probe, including the last stage of the launch vehicle, was 1,553 kg; the scientific and measuring equipment, including the power supply, weighed 435 kg. The equipment comprised a radio system, a telemetry system, a phototelevision system, a system for orientation with respect to the sun and moon, a power supply with solar batteries, a temperature control system, and various scientific instruments. Traveling in a trajectory around the moon, the probe passed at a distance of 6,200 km from its surface. On Oct. 7, 1959, the far side of the moon was photographed from Luna 3. The cameras with long- and short-focus lenses photographed nearly half the lunar surface, of which one-third was in the boundary zone of the side visible from the earth and two-thirds was in the invisible zone. After the film was processed on board, the resultant pictures were transmitted to earth by the phototelevision system when the probe was 40,000 km from the earth. The flight of Luna 3 constituted the first experiment in studying another celestial body by transmitting its picture from a spacecraft. After orbiting the moon, the probe moved into an extended elliptical orbit about the earth with an apogee of 480,000 km. After completing 11 revolutions, it entered the earth’s atmosphere and ceased to exist.

The Luna 4 through Luna 8 probes were launched between 1963 and 1965 to further investigate the moon and to soft-land a module with scientific equipment on the moon. The experimental development of the entire complex of systems that accomplish a soft landing, including the celestial navigation system, the on-board radio control system, the system providing radio control of the flight trajectory, and automatically controlled devices, was completed. The weight of the probe after separation from the booster stage of the launch vehicle ranged from 1,422 to 1,552 kg.

Luna 9 was the first unmanned spacecraft to soft-land on the moon and transmit pictures of the moon’s surface to the earth. It was launched on Jan. 31, 1966, by a four-stage launch vehicle using the supporting orbit of an artificial earth satellite. The probe landed on Feb. 3, 1966, in the vicinity of the Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms), west of the Reiner and Marius craters, at a point with the coordinates 64°22’ W long, and 7°08’ N lat. Panoramas of the lunar landscape, with the sun at different angles above the horizon, were transmitted to the earth. Seven radio transmissions, totaling more than 8 hr, were made in order to transmit scientific data. The probe operated for 75 hr on the moon. Luna 9 consisted of a probe designed for work on the surface of the moon, a compartment containing the control equipment, and a propulsion installation for trajectory corrections and prelanding braking. The weight of Luna 9 after translunar injection and after separation from the booster stage of the launch vehicle was 1,583 kg. The weight of the probe after landing on the moon was 100 kg. The hermetically sealed body contained television equipment, radio communications equipment, a present timing unit, scientific instruments, a temperature control system, and electric power sources. The pictures of the lunar surface transmitted by Luna 9 and the probe’s successful landing were of decisive importance for subsequent flights to the moon.

Luna 10 was the first artificial satellite of the moon. It was launched on Mar. 31, 1966. The weight of the spacecraft during its flight to the moon was 1,582 kg, and the weight of the artificial lunar satellite, which separated on April 3 after entering a selenocentric orbit, was 240 kg. The parameters of the orbit were perilune, 350 km; apolune, 1,017 km; period of revolution, 2 hr 58 min 15 sec; and inclination to the plane of the lunar equator, 7P54’. The equipment operated for 56 days, during which time the artificial lunar satellite completed 460 revolutions around the moon, made 219 radio broadcasts, and obtained information on the gravitational and magnetic fields of the moon and the extension of the earth’s magnetic field, through which the moon and its artificial satellite passed on numerous occasions, as well as indirect data on the chemical composition and radioactivity of lunar surface rocks. The tune of the International was broadcast to the earth by radio from an artificial lunar satellite, for the first time during the Twenty-third Congress of the CPSU. The International Aviation Federation awarded an honorary certificate to Soviet scientists, designers, and workers for the building and launching of the .Luna 9 and Luna 10.

Luna 11 was the second artificial lunar satellite. It was launched on Aug. 24, 1966, and weighed 1,640 kg. On August 27, Luna 11 was placed in a lunar orbit with the parameters perilune, 160 km; apolune, 1,200 km; inclination, 27°; and period of revolution, 2 hr 58 min. The satellite completed 277 revolutions and operated for 38 days. The scientific instruments continued the studies of the moon and the space near the moon that were begun by the Luna 10. There were 137 radio broadcasts.

Luna 12, the third Soviet artificial lunar satellite, was launched on Oct. 22, 1966. The orbit’s perilune was about 100 km, and the apolune 1,740 km. The weight of the spacecraft in lunar orbit was 1,148 kg. Luna 12 operated for 85 days. In addition to the scientific instruments, it carried a phototelevision system with high resolution (1,100 lines). Large-scale pictures of sections of the lunar surface in the vicinity of Mare Imbrium (Sea of Rains), the Aristarchus crater, and other areas were made and transmitted to the earth by this system; craters measuring 15-20 m and isolated objects as small as 5 m could be distinguished. The probe functioned until Jan. 19, 1967, and made 302 radio broadcasts. Radio contact was discontinued during the 602nd revolution, after completion of the flight program.

Luna 13 was the second unmanned spacecraft to soft-land on the moon. It was launched on Dec. 21, 1966, and on December 24 landed in the vicinity of Mare Procellarum at a point with selenographic coordinates 62°03’ W long, and 18°52’ N lat. The weight of the probe after landing on the moon was 112 kg. Data on the physicomechanical properties of the surface layer of lunar soil were obtained by means of a soil density meter, a dynamo-graph, and a radiation density meter. The gas-discharge counters that recorded corpuscular cosmic radiation made it possible to determine the reflectivity of the lunar surface for cosmic rays. Five large-scale panoramas of the lunar landscape, with the sun at different heights, were transmitted to the earth.

Luna 14, the fourth Soviet artificial lunar satellite, was launched dn Apr. 7, 1968. The perilune of the orbit measured 160 km, and the apolune 870 km. The ratio of the masses of the earth and moon was refined, and the moon’s gravitational field and shape were investigated by systematic, continuous observations of changes of the orbital parameters. The conditions for the passage and stability of radio signals transmitted from the earth to the satellite and back were studied for different positions of the satellite with respect to the moon, in particular, during the satellite’s passage behind the lunar disk. Cosmic rays and fluxes of charged particles emanating from the sun were measured. Additional information was obtained for the formulation of a precise theory of lunar motion.

Luna 15 was launched on July 13, 1969, by a more powerful rocket. After entering a selenocentric orbit, two orbital corrections were made. After the first correction, the perilune was 95 km, and the apolune 221 km; after the second, the perilune was 16 km, and the apolune 110 km. New navigation systems were tested. Investigations were conducted in the space near the moon and data on the operation of the probe’s new systems, which guaranteed safe landings on different parts of the moon, were obtained. Luna 15 completed 52 revolutions around the moon. On July 21 the retrorocket was fired and the probe dropped from orbit and fell to the lunar surface in a designated region.

Luna 16 was the first unmanned interplanetary probe to make the earth-moon-earth voyage and to bring back samples of lunar soil. It was launched on Sept. 12, 1970. On September 17 it entered a circular selenocentric orbit at a distance of 110 km from the lunar surface, with an inclination of 70° and a period of revolution of 1 hr 59 min. The complex task of forming a prelanding orbit with low perilune was subsequently carried out. A soft landing was made on Sept. 20, 1970, in the vicinity of Mare Foecunditatis (Sea of Fertility) at a point with coordinates 56°18’ E long, and 0°41’ S lat. The soil-gathering device bored into the surface and obtained a soil sample. The liftoff by rocket from the moon was carried out on Sept. 21, 1970, on command from the earth. On September 24 the returning capsule was separated from the instrument section and landed at a designated location. Luna 16 consisted of a landing stage with a soil-gathering device and of the moon-earth spacecraft with returning capsule. The weight of the probe at the time of landing on the lunar surface was 1,880 kg. The landing stage was an independent multipurpose rocket unit with a liquid-propellant rocket engine, a system of tanks containing the fuel components, instrument compartments, and shock-absorbing supports for landing on the lunar surface.

Luna 17 was the spacecraft that placed Lunokhod 1, the first unmanned roving scientific station, on the moon. Luna 17 was launched on Nov. 10, 1970, and on November 17 it soft-landed on the moon in the vicinity of the Mare Imbrium at a point with the coordinates 35° W long, and 38°17’ N lat.

Luna 18 was launched on Sept. 2, 1971. While in orbit, the probe carried out maneuvers for the purpose of working out methods of unmanned circumlunar navigation and making a lunar landing. Luna 18 completed 54 revolutions and made 85 radio broadcasts (testing the operation of systems and the measurement of trajectory parameters). On September 11 the retro-rocket was fired and the probe left its orbit and reached the moon in the continental area surrounding Mare Foecunditatis. The landing site was selected in mountainous terrain, a region of great scientific interest. As measurements showed, a successful landing of the probe under these complex topographical conditions proved to be unfeasible.

Luna 19 was the sixth Soviet artificial lunar satellite. It was launched on Sept. 28, 1971. On October 3 the spacecraft entered a circular selenocentric orbit with the following parameters: altitude above the surface of the moon, 140 km; inclination, 40°35’; and period of revolution, 2 hr 01 min 45 sec. On November 26 and 28 the spacecraft was transferred to a new orbit. Systematic, prolonged observations of the evolution of its orbit were conducted in order to obtain needed data for better determination of the moon’s gravitational field. The characteristics of the interplanetary magnetic field in the vicinity of the moon were measured continuously. Photographs of the lunar surface were transmitted to the earth.

Luna 20 was launched on Feb. 14, 1972. On February 18 it was placed, as a result of deceleration, in a circular selenocentric orbit having the following parameters: altitude, 100 km; inclination, 65°; and period of revolution, 1 hr 58 min. On February 21 it made the first soft landing in the mountainous continental region on the surface of the moon between the Mare Foecunditatis and Mare Crisium (Sea of Crises) at a point with selenographic coordinates 56°33’ E long, and 3°32’ N lat. Luna 20 was structurally similar to Luna 16. The soil-gathering device bored into the lunar soil and gathered samples that were placed in a container of the returning capsule and hermetically sealed. On February 23 the spacecraft bearing the returning capsule lifted off from the moon. On February 25 the returning capsule landed at a designated site in the USSR. Samples of lunar soil collected for the first time in a relatively inaccessible continental region of the moon were brought to the earth.

Luna 21 placed Lunokhod 2 on the surface of the moon. Liftoff took place on Jan. 8, 1973. Luna 21 soft-landed on the moon at the eastern edge of the Mare Serenitatis inside the Le Monnier crater at a point with coordinates 30°27’ E long, and 25°51’ N lat. On January 16, Lunokhod 2 emerged from the descent stage of Luna 21.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


ancient Roman goddess personifying the moon. [Rom. Myth.: Zimmerman, 153]
See: Moon
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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