But native the minute of Luna 15’s launch, U.S. Space scientists and NASA public official speculated the it to be a “scooping” mission, designed come land ~ above the Moon, expand a robotic arm, scoop up some soil and also rocks, and deposit castle in a compartment top top the spacecraft, which would then zoom ago to Earth, bringing house Moon rocks similar to Apollo 11 would, and maybe, simply maybe, arrive ago on Soviet soil v its cargo prior to the Apollo 11 astronauts can make it back to the united States.

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Frank Borman, the commander of the Apollo 8 mission that had orbited the Moon, had actually just went back from a nine-day goodwill tour of Russia—the an initial visit through a U.S. Astronaut to the Soviet Union—and appeared on the NBC news display Meet the Press the morning the Luna 15’s launch.

Frank Borman “I would certainly guess it’s most likely an effort” come bring back a soil sample, Borman said. “I heard referrals to that effect .”

Luna 15 had actually been aiming because that a website in the Sea of Crises, about 540 miles northeast of the Americans’ spot in the Sea the Tranquility, the street from Atlanta come Richmond, Virginia.

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The Soviet news company Tass reported through its standard obtuseness the Luna 15 had “left orbit and also reached the Moon’s surface in the preset area.” that is “program of research . . . Was completed.”

Despite taking practically a whole extra work to figure out the terrain, Soviet room scientists reportedly missed a mountain in the Sea of Crises. On its means to the “preset area,” Luna 15 slammed into the next of the lunar mountain, walking 300 miles per hour. (The Russians would efficiently land Luna 16 in September 1970, and it would certainly return 101 grams that lunar floor to the Soviet Union.)

One large Leap, through Charles Fishman

Charles Fishman, who has written for Fast Company since its inception, has actually spent the past four years researching and writing One giant Leap, his New York Times best-selling book around how it take it 400,000 people, 20,000 companies, and one federal government to obtain 27 people to the Moon. (You have the right to order that here.)

For each of the next 50 days, we’ll be posting a brand-new story native Fishman—one you’ve most likely never heard before—about the an initial effort to obtain to the Moon that illuminates both the historic effort and the existing ones. New posts will appear here daily and be distributed via Fast Company’s society media. (Follow follow me at #50DaysToTheMoon).