In an attempt to prove Soviet technical superiority over the US during the Cold war, the Soviet Union launched the worlds first Satellite, Sputnik 1. Sputnik's battery lasted until the 27th October 1957 but the satellite remained in orbit until 4th-January-1958.
Following the success of Sputnik 1 the Soviet Union launched the first living creature in space (a dog named Laika). This was the first biomedical experiment to find out if life could be sustained in Space and was a forerunner to manned space flight. The spacecraft carried instruments to detect ultraviolet and solar radiation, cosmic X-rays temperature and pressure. With no way to return the craft Laika died in orbit and communication with the satellite was lost on the 10th November.
Sputnik 3 carried an array of sensors to determine electric fields in space and near Earth, Solar radiation, magnetic fields and instruments to measure the density and structure of the ionosphere. Radio contact persisted for 691 days until the orbit decayed.
The first attempt at reaching the Moon with an unmanned craft was a failure as Luna 1 (Lunnik 1) missed and entered an orbit between the Earth and Mars around the Sun. It was however still the first man made object to leave the Earths orbit and to orbit the Sun.
The follow up mission, Luna 2, found the mark becoming the first man made object to reach another object in our solar system.
Continuing the success of the previous Lunar mission, Luna 3 performed the first Lunar flyby returning images from the other side of the Moon that is never exposed to Earth.
|Sputnik 5 (Korabl-Sputnik 2)
Following up on what was learnt from Sputnik's 2 and 4, Sputnik 5 had a crew of two dogs (Belka & Strelka), mice, rats and some plants. The crew was successfully retrieved after returning from 24 hours in space (16 Earth orbits). Sputnik 6 was an attempt to repeat this feats before human space flight was attempted but was not successful. The later flights of the Vostok like Sputnik's 9 (with dog Chernuska) and 10 (with dog Zvezdochka) were successful and lead to the first manned space flight of Gagarin.
Venera 1 was the world's first attempt to reach another planet in the Solar system. Venera 1 was the first space probe designed to perform mid-course corrections, and stabilized by fixing on the Sun and the star Canopus to prevent spinning and thus allow fixed tracking and data transmission.
Venera 3 became the first object to impact another planet in the solar system (Venus).
Luna 9 was the first man made craft to perform a soft landing on another world. It facsimiled images of the Moon back to Earth on 3rd of February 1966. These were the first images transmitted from another world.
Luna 10 became the Moon's first satellite and the first man made object to enter the orbit of another body in the solar system. It carried gamma ray spectrometer to identify the chemistry of the Lunar surface and remained in contact with the Earth until 30th May.
Launched 12th June 1967, Venera 4 parachuted through the atmosphere of Venus on 18th October, transmitting data on the atmospheric conditions of Venus during the descent. Later in mid May 1969 Venera's 5 and 6 repeated this.
The first unmanned craft to go to the Moon, orbit it and return to Earth was Zond 5. It was was an unmanned version of the Soyuz space craft and was one of three such test flights launched before the Soviet Union gave up their Lunar program. These Zond missions 5, 6 and 7 were the reason the American's pushed for Apollo 8 to orbit the Moon.
The first confirmed soft landing on another planet was with Venera 7's touching down on the surface of 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.
This was followed by Venera 8, when it too lasted for 50 minutes on the surface of Venus on the 22nd July 1972.
Luna 16 was the first unmanned robotic probe to return samples from another world. Luna 16 orbited the moon for two days before making its descent. If an earlier attempt with Luna 15 had succeeded, this would have beaten Apollo 11 and been the first moon samples, but Luna 15 crashed on the moon. Apollo 11's manned moon landing returned many kilograms of moon rock, Luna 16 only returned a small sample of 103 grams.
The later missions of Luna 20 and 24 returned 55g and 170g of Lunar materials respectively, whereas Luna 18 and 23 failed for various reasons.
The first off world rover was Lunokhod 1 which was successfully landed on the moon by Luna 17. Lunokhod 1 explored the moon for 322 days travelling 10.5km before contact was lost on 14-September-1971.
The 1971 Mars missions (Mars 2 and 3) consisted of an orbiter and a lander. Mars 2 lander failed to perform a softlanding instead setting the record for the first Mars impact. The orbiter was successful remaining in orbit until the mission ended in August 1972.
In contrast to its sister ship, the Mars 3 landed successfully but was only able to transmit data for 20 seconds before communication was lost. Both Mars 2 and 3 contained a rover but neither had a chance to start their missions. The orbiter again was a success remaining in orbit until the mission ended in August 1972.
Later flights of Mars 4 and 5 orbiters and Mars 6 and 7 landers had minimal success. Mars 4 and 7 failed, going into Solar orbit after reaching Mars and Mars 6 lander loosing communications 2 minutes into its descent. Mars 5 being the only semi-successful entering Mars orbit 12th February 1974 and remaining in orbit for 9 days (22 orbits).
The second lunar rover was Lunokhod 2 which was landed by Luna 21. Lunokhod 2 explored the moon for 4 months travelling 37km which is still to date the record for greatest distance travelled by an off-world rover. Lunokhod 2 was lost after the lid became covered with dust and then was closed for the lunar night. This clogged the radiators and resulting in the vehicle overheating on the following lunar day.
Repeating the earlier Venera mission successes, Venera's 9 and 10 were the first probes to return black and white images from the surface of Venus on 22nd and 25th of October 1975. Venera 9 was also the first man made Venus orbiter entering Venusian orbit on 20-October and completing its mission 25-December-1975.
Venera 11 operated for 95 minutes from the surface of Venus whilst Venera 12 lasted for 110 minutes in December 1978. Unfortunately no images were returned due to camera equipment malfunctions.
Building on the success of the previous Venera missions, on 1st and 5th March 1982, Venera's 13 and 14 respectively returned colour images from the Venusian surface. Venera 13 lasted some 127 minutes on the Surface of Venus.
Venera's 15 and 16 were orbiters that between October-1983 and July-1984 mapped the surface of Venus using radar.
|Vega 1& 2
Launched in December 1984 the two Vega probes first visited Venus in June-1985, deploying landers and balloons. The landers were similar to the Venera 9/10 design, the balloons lasted in the cloud layer for 46 hours before communication was lost. The orbiters used Venuses gravity to propel themselves on to Halley's Comet where on March 6th and 9th the two craft made their closest approach.
The last Soviet Mars missions were Phobos 1 and 2. Launched 12-July-1988 Phobos 2 entered the Martian orbit on 29-January-1989. Phobos 2 transmitted data and images before communication was lost. The Phobos mission also included a lander but the this wasn't launched before communications were lost in March. Phobos 1 failed on route to Mars.