Lunar Roving Russian Robot Found After 37 Years

A Russian robot rover has been photographed from lunar orbit after 37 years.  The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) imaged the area on one of its orbits of the Moon.  Then, Phil Stooke, a researcher from The University of Western Ontario, solved a 37-year-old space mystery using lunar images released yesterday by NASA and maps from his own atlas of the moon.  Lunokhod 2 stands 4 ft 5 in high and is about 5 ft 7 in long and 4 ft 11 in wide, and it shows up clearly in the overhead photo.  For mobility, it used 8 independently powered wheels.

As explained on the Wikipedia site, “Lunokhod 2 was equipped with three television cameras, one mounted high on the rover for navigation, which could return high resolution images.  These images were used by a five-man team of controllers on Earth who sent driving commands to the rover in real time. Power was supplied by a solar panel on the inside of a round hinged lid which covered the instrument bay, which would charge the batteries when opened. A polonium-210 radioisotope heater unit was used to keep the rover warm during the long lunar nights.  After landing, the Lunokhod 2 took TV images of the surrounding area, then rolled down a ramp to the surface at 01:14 UT on January 16 and took pictures of the Luna 21 lander and landing site, driving for 30 meters. After a period of charging up its batteries, it took more pictures of the site and the lander, and then set off to explore the moon.

The rover would run during the lunar day, stopping occasionally to recharge its batteries with the solar panels. At night the rover hibernated until the next sunrise, heated by the radioactive source.”

This rugged robot still holds the record for distance driven on another planetary body.  It covered about 23 miles on its lunar trek.  By comparison, the Mars Exploration Rover, Opportunity, has traveled just over 12 miles. 

It is easy to forget sometimes that robots have been exploring space for decades, and although today’s machines are more capable in some ways, the explorer robots of the past accomplished some amazing feats considering the technology of the times.  You can read the complete story at the site linked to at the bottom of the page.  You can also click on the photo below for the article.

 LRO_Lunokhod_2

Photo Credit:  NASA

A Canadian researcher has helped solve a 37-year-old space mystery using lunar images released by NASA and maps from an atlas of the moon.

Russian lunar rover found: 37-year-old space mystery solved
(author unknown)
Wed, 17 Mar 2010 18:00:00 GMT

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