Science: Luna First

Shortly before Apollo 11 was launched in July 1969, Russian scientists sent an unmanned spaceship to the moon. Its probable mission was to land on the lunar surface, scoop up some soil and beat the Americans back to earth with the first samples of moon material. Luna 15 never achieved that ambitious goal. Several hours after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first mortals to step onto the moon, the Soviet spaceship dropped out of lunar orbit, apparently crashed and was never heard from again.

Last week, in a rerun of that abortive...

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