Black and white image of a rover.
Image Credit: NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University
Published: September 28, 2017

An amazing spacecraft gently settled to the lunar surface on 17 November 1970. It carried the first successful robotic lunar rover -- Lunokhod 1. For the next ten months the rover was driven by operators in the Soviet Union, with the total distance traveled exceeding 10 km. For comparison, in six years of operation the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has traveled about 12 km.

After landing, the rover drove down a ramp onto the lunar surface and tested its eight wheels. The rover was driven by solar power during the day; at night it parked and relied on thermal energy from a polonium-210 radioisotope heater to survive the cold (-150°C).

The rover was about 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) long and 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall.

The intrepid rover sent back valuable data concerning the composition of the regolith (soil), close up views of the local topography, and important engineering measurements of the regolith.

Black and white image showing speck of a rover on the surface from high above the Moon.
Lunokhod 1's final resting place as seen by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

More: Soviet Lunar Rovers

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