USSR 1959 Luna 3

Luna 3, launched on October 4, 1959 from Baikonur Cosmodrome, was the third Russian space probe sent to the Moon and also the first spaceflight to photograph the far side of the Moon. The space probe passed within 6,200 km of the moon near its south pole at the closest lunar approach at 14:16 UT on 6 October 1959. On 7 October, the first picture was taken at 03:30 UT at a distance of 63,500 km from the moon, and the last picture was taken 40 minutes later from a distance of 66,700 km.

Launch of Luna 3 on October 4, 1959 (Also the second anniversary of the successful launch of Sputnik 1).

Luna 3 stamp first day cover issued on October 12, 1959.

A total of 29 pictures were taken, covering 70% of the far side. After the photography was completed the spacecraft resumed spinning, passed over the north pole of the moon and returned towards the Earth. Attempts to transmit the pictures to the Soviet Union began on October 8 but the early attempts were unsuccessful due to the low signal strength. As Luna 3 drew closer to the Earth, a total of about 17 viewable but poor quality photographs were transmitted by 18 October.

Luna 3 flew close to Earth on October 18, 1959.

All contact with Luna 3 was lost on 22 October 1959. Though it returned rather poor pictures by later standards, the historic, never-before-seen views of the far side of the Moon caused excitement and interest when they were published around the world, and a tentative Atlas of the Far Side of the Moon was created after image processing improved the pictures.