SPUTNIK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SPUTNIK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Diagram of the Soviet Luna-1 spacecraft, which became the first artificial "planet" to orbit the Sun following its launch on January 2nd, 1959. Luna-1 was the first of a series of Soviet lunar probes. It passed the Moon at a distance of 6400 kilometres 34 hours after launch & then entered a solar orbit situated between the orbits of Mars & Earth, with a period of 450 days. The spacecraft also created the first artificial "comet" when it ejected a quantity of sodium on January 3, 1959, which could be observed from Earth for several minutes using special filters allowing sodium's characteristic yellow colour to pass. Luna-1 was also known as Meishcha, meaning dream.
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