Accidental Journey
A Farmer's Almanac
Surface of
... Last Scatter
Song of Childhood
... Kilometres



    Tim O'Riley, drawing of the far side of the moon from Luna 3’s photographs
(after Philip J. Stooke's International Atlas of Lunar Exploration)

[click on the images to see more]
    The moon orbits the earth once every 27.3 days and is in synchronous rotation around its axis, meaning that the same side faces the earth at all times. The moon's far side has remained unknown until relatively recently. The first photograph of the far side was taken by the Soviet spacecraft, Lunik 3 or Luna 3, on 7th October, 1959. The spacecraft, also known as the 'Third Cosmic Rocket' and the 'Automatic Interplanetary Station', was 63,500 kilometres from the lunar surface when the first images were captured. In all, 29 photographs were shot over a forty minute period as the spacecraft orbited the moon. The film was developed automatically and the resulting images were scanned onboard the spacecraft before being transmitted to earth on 18th October 1959 after Luna 3 had moved around the moon and back into radio contact.

An area of the moon's far side revealed in the images was named Mare Mechta (sometimes referred to as Mare Desiderii, the Sea of Dreams) after the original Luna 1 spacecraft which had been called Mechta (Dream). Three attempts to launch the first interplanetary spacecraft in 1958 had been aborted before a fourth successful launch and Luna 1 had become the first spacecraft to escape the earth's gravity and reach the moon in January 1959. The Sea of Dreams was later found to consist of numerous dark craters in the South Pole-Aitken Basin and a smaller mare that became known as Mare Ingenii, the Sea of Ingenuity. As such the Sea of Dreams is no longer recognised by the International Astronomical Union and has passed into the realm of shadows.


Soviet lapel badge commemorating the launch of Luna 3 on 4th October 1959
[Photograph | Tim O'Riley]