Sunday, March 14, 2010

Some Guy Bought This Thing On The Moon

In 1970 and 1973, nearly thirty years before the US's Mars rovers, the Soviet Union landed two robotic explorers, Lunokhod 1 and 2, on the moon. They were equipped with panoramic television cameras and some other instruments. The hinged top was full of solar cells and opened up like a clamshell. They ran for months; Lunokhod 2 still holds the distance record [37+km] for extraterrestrial surface travel.

Contact with Lunokhod 1 [pictured above, but they look basically the same] was lost in the 1970s, but using laser ranging, they've sited Lunokhod 2 and its landing vehicle, Luna 21 with sub-meter accuracy. It's around the Le Monnier crater.

Which may be why the contractor, Luvochkin, felt comfortable putting title to Lunokhod 2 and Luna 21 up for auction at Sotheby's in 1993. Together they sold for $68,500, delivery not included.

The buyer was Richard Garriott, aka Lord British, the guy who started Ultima. His dad was an astronaut on Skylab and the Space Shuttle. He also owns a Sputnik. This is the craziest thing I've heard all weekend, and it has even been one of those weekends.

Lunokhod Programme [wikipedia]