SPUTNIK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SPUTNIK / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Soviet lunar rock sample. The first Soviet mission to return a sample of lunar rock to the Earth was the robotic probe Luna 16, which landed back on Earth on 24 September 1970. This was the first return of lunar rock by a robotic probe. The first samples of lunar rock and soil had been obtained by US astronauts on the Apollo 11 and 12 missions in 1969. Earlier Soviet probes had landed on the Moon and sent back photographs of the surface, the first successful landing being the Luna 9 probe (1966).
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