Space: Soft Landing the Hard Way

With modest fanfare, last week the Russians launched their first space shot aimed at landing an unmanned vehicle softly on the moon. After a successful mid-course correction of trajectory, Tass announced that the spacecraft Lunik V was expected to touch down on the lunar plain called the Sea of Clouds at 10:15 p.m. Moscow time. And there were proud hints that this time the flight might not end in the destructive crash that has marked all previous Russian and U.S. moon shots.

Then came the report that Lunik V had landed in the...