Soviet Union – Roscosmos
Luna 20: Lunar Landing

Mission Details

Mission Name: Luna 20
Mission Type: Lunar Lander
Operator: Soviet Union (Roscosmos)
Launching State: Soviet Union/Russia
Location: Apollonius Highlands
Latitude: 3.7863
Longitude: 56.6242
Launch Date: 14 February 1972, 03:27:59 UT
Landing Date: 21 February 1972, 19:19 UT
Objects on or Related to Site:
Luna 20
Image Source: NASA


Luna 20 was to conduct the mission that Luna 18 was unable to complete: obtain a soil sample from the lunar highlands and bring it to Earth for comparison with Luna 16’s sample from a site that was thought to be geologically different.

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Heritage Consideration

The spacecraft succeeded in returning a soil sample(55 grams) to Earth. Among other things, the sample was revealed to include very pure iron.

Object on or Related to Site

Object Name: Luna 20
Cospar: 1972-007A
Norad: N/A
Location: Precise location unknown or undisclosed.
Launch Date: 14 February 1972, 03:27:59 UT
Landing Date: 21 February 1972, 19:19 UT
Deployment: N/A
End Date: N/A
Function: Lunar sample return.
Image Source: NASA


Luna 16 and 20 were very similar in design and sampling method. A drill at the end of the sampling arm collected soil from a few tens of cm below the surface. The arm then placed the sample into the return capsule on top of the vehicle. The distinctive shadow seen in the LROC image of Luna 20 is most likely that of the sampling arm. The Luna 20 sample contained minerals similar to those sampled by the US Apollo 16 astronauts two months later from the Cayley plains (8°58″S, 15°30″E).

Luna 15 crashed about 9 miles (15 kilometers) laterally away and 28 miles (45 kilometers) ahead of its assumed location. Impact was roughly at 17 degrees north latitude and 60 degrees east longitude in Mare Crisium.

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Luna 23: Lunar Landing
Luna 23 was to drill 2.5 meters below the lunar surface (compared to the 0.3-m depth of the cores sampled by Luna 16 and 20) and return a sample of the soil to Earth.
Luna 22: Lunar Orbit
In addition to its primary mission of surface photography, Luna 22 also performed investigations to determine the chemical composition of the lunar surface, recorded meteoroid activity, searched for a lunar magnetic field, measured solar and cosmic radiation flux, and continued studies of the irregular magnetic field.
Luna 21: Lunar Landing
Luna 21's mission was to deliver the rover Lunokhod 2 to the Moon. The lander carried a bas relief of Lenin and the Soviet coat-of-arms. Richard Garriott purchased both the Luna 21 lander and the Lunakhod 2 rover from the Soviet Union.
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