Feb. 3, 1966 Once more, America ate Russia's dust moondust this time as the Soviets soft-landed the Luna 9 spacecraft in the Ocean of Storms. Parachutes are useless in the moon's airless environment, so you had to do the job the hard way with rocket engines gradually bleeding speed off the descending ship until it slowed enough to kiss the lunar surface. Oh, and you had to miss craters and boulders along the way and control it all with onboard computers and remote commands from a distance of 240,000 miles. The Russians succeeded brilliantly again. America's Surveyor landers would follow Luna 9 by just a few months. Follow being the operative word again.