SOVIET UNMANNED MISSIONS
FIRST DAY COVERS

FIRST DAY COVERS

SPUTNIK 1
Sputnik 1 was launched 04-October-1957 and was the first man made object in space and the first satellite to orbit the Earth.

This cover and card are for the fifth anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 1. They feature the definitive Sputnik stamp and cachet.

SPUTNIK 2
Sputnik 2 featuring the first animals in space was launched on 04-November-1957. Unfortunately the crew, a dog called Laika, was lost but the mission provided the first data on the behaviour of a living creature in space. The lessons learned resulted in the safe return of the animal crew of a later flight, Sputnik 5.

Here are two examples of postcards commemorating the Success of the early sputniks. One 1958 card for Sputniks 1 and 2 and the other featuring Laika with Sputniks 1, 2 and 3.

Here we have a first day cover commemorating one of the stamps released for the event 21-March-1958.
Pictured here is a Sputnik 2 cover issued for the 3rd anniversary of the launch 3-November.
and this cover was issued for the fourth anniversary of the launch of Sputnik 2.
SPUTNIK 3
This first day cover is from Sputnik 3 which contained various scientific sensors and was launched 15-May-1958 (May is Mar in Russian). Note this cover features its own Sputnik 3 stamp which was issued in June and was cancelled 16-July-1958.
This first day cover is to commemorate Sputnik 3's 1000 orbit on 27-July-1958 and is cancelled on the day and also features the Sputnik 3 stamp issued to commemorate its launch.
This cover featured the Sputnik 3 stamp and cachet but was cancelled for the second anniversary of Sputnik 1 (incedently the launch date on Luna 3). To confuse matters, it features the official black postmark at Moscow G-242 on 4-October-1959 and red, violet luna markings.
Here we have a Sputnik 3 maxicard with the Sputnik 1, 2 and 3 cosmonautics day 1974 stamp. It is cancelled for Cosmonautics day 1974.
Issued to commemorate the first three Sputniks, here we have an attractive cover cancelled for cosmonautics day 1966.
LUNA 1 (LUNNIK 1)
Luna 1 was the first attempt to impact the moon. It missed and became the first man made object to enter the Sun's orbit.

This first day cover was issued to commemorate the launch of Luna 1.

LUNA 2 (LUNNIK 2) - First off-world impact
Luna 2 was the first man made probe to make contact with another world. It was launched 12-September-1959 and transmitted radio signals until it impacted the moon 2 days later.

This is the first day cover commemorating the first contact with another world on the 14th September and was cancelled 16-September-1959 two days after the event.

This is the first day cover commemorating the Luna 2 Moon impact the 14-September-1959 and features a Luna 3 stamp and was cancelled 30-April-1960.
Here we have the definitive first anniversary cover featuring a Luna 2 stamp, first anniversary cachet and cancellations.
Cancelled for the launch, this cover features the same cachet as the Luna 1 cover earlier along with a 1959 space stamp.
Pictured here are a pair of Soviet propaganda postcards issued in recognition of the success of Luna 2. One includes both of the stamps issued for the Luna 2 mission.
LUNA 3 (LUNNIK 3) -
First images from the unseen side of the moon
Luna 3 was launched 7-October-1959 and returned the first images from the side of the moon that doesn't face the Earth.

This is the definitive first anniversary cover issued for Luna 3 and features one of the two Luna 3 stamps.

This is another Luna 3 1st anniversary cover featuring one of the Luna 3 stamps. This is one of a matching pair, the other being seen immediately above.
This cover and the one below are a matching pair of first anniversary Luna 3 covers. They each feature one of the two Luna 3 stamps along with its matching cachets.
As mentioned above, this anniversary cover its matching pair.
The Soviets were quick to celebrate their achievements (after success was confirmed) by the issuing of propaganda postcards, stamps and covers. Here are a selection of Luna 3 cards, some featuring various Luna 3 stamps.
SPUTNIK 5 / KORABL SPUTNIK 2
Korabl Sputnik 2 (or as it was known in the west, Sputnik 5) was the first test of the Vostok space craft. Unlike Sputnik 2 it was designed for re-entry and it successfully returned the first living crew from space. Crewed by two dogs (Belka and Strelka), Sputnik 5 was launched on 19-August-1960 and returned the next day.

Pictured here are three cards featuring the crew of Sputnik 5 - Belka and Strelka.

Here we have some postal stationary featuring the first creatures to return from space alive - Belka and Strelka.
SPUTNIK 6 / KORABL SPUTNIK 3
Korabl Sputnik 3 (Sputnik 6) was the second test of the Vostok space craft. Unfortunately the crew of two dogs (Pcholka and Mushka), were lost on re-entry. Sputnik 6 was launched on 1-December-1960 and was deorbited the next day.

Here was have a cover cancelled for the launch of Korabl Sputnik 3.

This cover was cancelled for the first anniversary of Korabl Sputnik 3.
SPUTNIK 9 / KORABL SPUTNIK 4
Korabl Sputnik 4 (Sputnik 9) was another test of the Vostok space craft. Unlike Sputnik 6, it was successfully returned from orbit. Crewed by a dogs (Chernushka) along with various other animals and a mannequin, Sputnik 9 was launched on 9-March-1961 and returned after just one orbit.

This cover cancelled for the launch of Korabl Sputnik 4.

SPUTNIK 10 / KORABL SPUTNIK 5
The final test of the unmanned Vostok space craft was also a success and paved the way for Gagarins 12-April-1961 Vostok 1 flight. Korabl Sputnik 5 (Sputnik 10) was launched on 25-March-1961 carrying a crew of a dog (Zvezdochka) along with various other animals and a mannequin.
LUNA 4 (LUNNIK 4)
Luna 4 was launched 2-April-1963. It was the first of a new generation of spacecraft that employed a second phase of launch sequence from Earth orbit. Intended as a Lunar lander, it missed the moon and was reclassified as a Lunar fly-by.

This is the definitive Luna 4 cover, cancelled for the mission end on the 6-April-1963 and features the Luna 4 stamp.

VENERA 1
Venera 1 was the Soviet's first attempt at sending an unmanned probe to another world. The true successes of the Venera program came with the first soft landing Venera 7, first images Veneras 9 and 10 and first colour images Veneras 13 and 14.

Here we have two postcards. The maxicard on the left features the 1961 Venera 1 stamp and was cancelled in 1964. Pictured on the right is a museum display of Venera 4, which was the first craft to enter another planet's atmosphere (although it didn't survive the descent).

MARS 1
Launched 1-November-1962, Mars 1 was the Soviets first attempt at investigating the planet Mars. The probe was not successful and communications with the probe was lost 21-March-1963 almost a month before reaching its destination.

This cover features a Mars 1 stamp and cachet and is cancelled 12-November-1962.

Pictured here is an example of postal stationary issued to commemorate the Soviet's first mission to Mars.
Here is a Mars 1 maxicard featuring a Mars 1 mission stamp.
Molniya - First Soviet communications satellite
Lauched 14-October-1965 Molniya 1 was the first in a series of communications statellites used by the Soviet Union.
LUNA 9 (LUNNIK 9) - First off-world soft landing
Lunar 9 was the first man made probe to make a soft landing on another world. Like the previous lunar impact missions, it transmitted radio signals until it reached its target then moments later proceeded to transmit images of the lunar surface back to Earth. The launch occurred on 31-January-1966 with the impact on 3-February.

Here we see a 1963 stamp reissued with an overprint for Luna 9. It is featured on a cachet cancelled on the 5-February two days after the impact.

Here again we see the same overprinted stamp and cancellation, but this time on a different Luna 9 cachet.
This first day cover features one of the stamps issued for the Luna 9 mission and was cancelled on 25-November-1966, the day of the stamp release.
Also cancelled for the 25-November stamp release, this cachet features another of the stamps issued for the achievements of Luna 9.
This cover features the complete issue of stamps for the Luna 9 mission and cancelled for cosmonautics day 1967.
Featuring another stamp issued for Luna 9's landing on the moon, this commemorative cachet was cancelled for the 1967 Cosmonautics day.
Another Luna 9 cachet featuring the same stamp and cancelled for the 1967 Cosmonautics day.
This is a cover for the Space Topics Philately Exhibition "To the Stars" held in Moscow from the 23-March to 13-April-1966. It features the luna 9 landing motif on the cachet.
Here are a pair of styilised commemorative maxicards for the Luna 9 mission.
LUNA 10 (LUNNIK 10) - First Lunar orbiter
Luna 10 was the first man made probe to orbit the moon. It was launched 31-March-1966 entering orbit on the 3-April and remaining in contact until 30-May.

Here is a cover cancelled for Luna 10 entering the moon's orbit on 3rd-April-1966. It features a special stamp release for the event.

This cover was cancelled 15-July-1966 on the day the second Luna 10 stamp issue.
Here is a Luna 10 maxicard featuring the same stamp.
ZOND 5 - First unmanned Lunar/Earth round trip
Also ZOND 6, 7 and 8
Zond 5 was launched 15-September-1968 and orbited the moon before returning to Earth six days later. Zond 6, 7 and 8 repeated this mission with further success.

This cover and stamp was issued on the following Cosmonautics day for the event.

This first day cover is for the follow up flight Zond 6, which flew from 10-November. It was cancelled for the 11-November and features a pair of lunar 9 stamps.
Zond 7 was the most successful of the Zond flights landing back on target in the Soviet Union. This cover has one of the stamp featured on the miniature sheet at the top of this page.
Here is a miniature sheet celebrating the Zond 6 and 7 missions to orbit the moon returning to Earth in 10th to 17-November-1968 and 8th to 14-August-1969 respectively.
LUNA 16 (LUNNIK 16) - First unmanned probe to return soil sample
After being launched 12-September-1970 Luna 16 returned its samples from the lunar surface on 24-September-1970.
Another example of unused Luna 16 stationary.
Here are a pair of propaganda postcard deplicting Luna 16 launching from the moon and both featuring the associated stamp.
LUNA 17 (LUNNIK 17) - First off-world robotic rover Lunokhod 1
On 10-November-1970 Luna 17 was launched, landing on the moon 17-November. It carried with it the first rover to another world. Lunokhod 1 explored the moon for 322 days before contact was lost on 14-September-1971.

Here we have a cover cancelled for the Luna 17 moon landing and the start of the Lunokhod 1 lunar rover mission on 17-November-1970.

The maxicard on the left features one of the four stamps issued for the event and is cancelled 12-April-1972. The other card has a cosmonautics day 1972 stamp commemorating 15 years of Soviet achievements in space, with this particular stamp showing Lunokhod 1.
This set of five commemorative covers features the four stamps issued for the event and are all cancelled 16-March-1971.
VENERA 7 - First soft landing on another planet
Venera 7 was the first soft landing by an unmanned probe on another planet (Venus). Earlier attempts had either impacted the planet or burnt up in its acidic atmosphere. Venera 7 returned data for around 50 minutes before too being consumed by the heat. It wasn't until Venera 9 and 10 that the first images of the surface of Venus were returned to Earth.

This cover commemorates Venera 7's landing on Venus 16-December-1970 (launched 17-August).

Pictured here are two postcards commemorating the successful Venera 7 mission to Venus.
And some postal stationary commemorating Venera 7.
MARS 2 - First impact on Mars
Mars 2 attempted the first soft landing unsuccessfully on 27-November-1971. The orbiter remained in orbit until August-1972.

This cover was cancelled for the launch of the Mars 2 mission 20-May-1971.

Here we have a cover issued for first information returned by the Mars 2 orbiter on 28-December-1971.
This Swanson cover commemorates the landing of the Mars 2 space probe on 27-November-1971 and features a 1964 Mars 1 stamp.
MARS 3 - First soft landing on Mars
Mars 3 achieved the first soft landing on Mars and was launched 29-May-1971. The orbiter arrived at Mars 2-December-1971, releasing its lander and remained in orbit until 22-August-1972. The transmissions for the Martian surface stopped for unknown reasons after around two minutes.

Pictured here is a museum display of Mars 3 along with a maxicard issued for the Mars2/3 mission and featuring the special Mars 2 stamp.

This cover commemorates the launch of the Mars 3 space probe and was cancelled 29-May-1971.
This cover commemorates the soft landing of the Mars 3 probe on the surface of Mars 3-December-1971 and was cancelled on the day.
Interestingly this Swanson cover was cancelled 2-December-1971 for the landing of the Mars 3 probe.
VENERA 8
Venera 8 through to 14 repeated the success of Venera 7 transmitting data from between 50 minutes to just over 2 hours.

This is a launch cover for Venera 8's mission to Venus, cancelled for the launch 28-March-1972.

And the matching standard space cover of the day, this time cancelled for the landing 23-July-1972.
This Swanson cover for the launch of Venera 8 27-March-1972 (nb international date line).
The matching Swanson cover cancelled for Venera 8's Venus landing 22-July-1972.
Here is a pair of Venera mission maxicards (actually for missions 3 and 4) featuring the 1968 Cosmonautics day Venera missions stamp.
MARS 3 / VENERA 8
This was a commemorative miniature sheet first day cover for the Mars 3 and Venera 8 missions.
LUNA 20
Repeating the success of Luna 16, Luna 20 performed the round trip landing on the moon and returning samples back to Earth on the 25-February.

This Swanson cover was issued for the 14-February-1972 launch of Luna 20.

And this matching Swanson cachet was issued for Luna 20's moon landing on 21-February. This Swanson cover features the matching Luna 9 stamp to the cover above.
LUNA 21 / LUNOKHOD 2
Featuring a special miniature sheet issued for the mission, this cover was cancelled on Cosmonautics day 1973 commemorating the Lunokhod 2 moon rover's mission.

In January 1973 Luna 21 landed the second Lunokhod unmanned rover for its mission exploring the surface of the moon. The mission came to an end in May after a mishap where by Lunar dust caused it to overheat.

These two maxicards commemorates the lunokhod 2 mission and both feature the other stamp release.
The cover pictured here was cancelled for Lunokhod 2 landing on the moon. It features a Lunokhod 1 stamp.
This is an example of the postal stationary issued that features Lunokhod 2.
LUNA 22
As a repeat of earlier lunar orbiter missions (Luna 10, 11, 12, 14 and 19). This cover was issued for the launch of Luna 22.
Luna 22 was the last such lunar orbiter of the luna programme. The cover was issued for Luna 22 achieving lunar orbit.
LUNA 23
Again attempting to repeat the previous successes of Luna 16 and 20, Luna 23 was to return samples from the lunar surface. The craft was damaged during landing and didn't return its samples. This cover was for the launch of Luna 23.
This cover was issued for the landing of Luna 23 on the moon. Later Luna 24 (the final mission of the Soviet Luna programme) was able to repeat the intended mission successfully.
MARS 4,5,6 & 7

In an extravagant show of propaganda ending in negligible success, four large probes were sent in quick succession to Mars. Mars 4 and 5 were orbiters while Mars 6 and 7 were landers. Mars 5 was the only success and all other flights either missed completely, or crashed on the planet.

This first cover features a Mars 2 stamp and was cancelled for the launch of Mars 5, the only successful mission of the 'Four Stars to Mars' group of flights.

The second cover is cancelled on 12-February-1974 for Mars 5 obtaining Martian orbit. It remained in orbit for 9 days.

VENERA 9 / 10
Repeating the success for Venera's 7 and 8, the next pair of Venera missions, were in October 1975 the first to return images from the surface of Venus. Later in December-1978 Venera's 11 and 12 repeated this mission.
Above is the Swanson cover for the launch of Venera 9 on the 8-June-1975. Whilst this is the matching Venera 10 launch cover on the 14-June-1975.
Here we have three postcards.

On the top is a postcard showing both the lander and orbiter, commemorating the successful landing of Venera 9 and 10 on Venus.

On the bottom left is a museum display of Venera 10 orbiter.

And pictured on the bottom right is a postcard showing an artists impression of the Venera 9 lander on the surface of Venus.

VENERA 11 / 12
Repeating the previous Venera missions, the next pair Venera's 11 and 12, returned more images in December-1978.
VENERA 13 / 14
Continuing on from the previous Venera missions, Venera's 13 and 14 were the first to return colour pictures from the surface of Venus. This cover features the mission stamp and was cancelled 10-March-1982, the same month as the mission success.
VENERA 15 / 16
The final pair of Venera missions was Venera's 15 and 16 that carried ground mapping radar capable of penetrating the dense clouds of Venus in place of the lander.
PHOBOS
Launched July-1988 the two Phobos probes entered the Martian orbit on January 1989. Phobos 2 transmitted data and images but failed on its final phase before launching its lander, Phobos 1 failed on route to Mars.

This first day cover was issued for the launch on 7-July-1988 and features one of the Phobos mission stamps and cachet.

Here we have a second first day cover commemorating the Phobos Mars mission stamp release on 24-April-1989.
And finally this is a third cover issued for the Phobos Mars mission launch on 7-July-1988.


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