Luna 3 & the Dark Side of the Moon

October 4, 1959 — the Soviet Luna 3 launches.  Three days later, it would take the first ever images of the dark side of the moon.  With no rockets to correct or aim the Luna’s course, the means of getting this four foot tall hermetically sealed cylinder (read as: fancy garbage can) boomeranged into space, pointed in the right direction at the right moment to take a set of photos, develop the film, scan the film, and transmit them back to Earth was nothing short of a feat of technological acrobatics.

“Photograph 1” — the first transmitted image. What a shame that all the original photos burned up with the ship.

The radiowave transmission of the photographs in the Luna 3 operated via a scanner which measured the intensity of light and dark pixels on the film.  These areas (pixels) would be assigned an electronic value according to their intensity, encoding the image in a series of numbers which could then be transmitted back to earth via electromagnetic waves (radio waves) and reconstituted as an image–not unlike how a TV works.  (Note to self: look up a better explanation of my cursory understanding of this.)

The Luna 3 spent the following five months locked in a looping ellipse, completing eleven orbits around the moon and Earth before falling back to Earth and disintegrating in the atmosphere in March, 1960.

A 2D image of 4D gymnastics.
(Rotated to approximate the photograph from the Luna 3).
The dark side of the moon (or, more accurately: the far side of the moon), as pictured by the Apollo 16 in 1972 — Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon came out shortly after, in March, 1973.

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