Humans First Saw the Far Side of the Moon 55 Years Ago Today

The side of the moon that faces Earth is familiar to anyone who's stood outside at night. But it wasn't until this day in 1959 that mankind was able to glimpse the dark side of the moon, thanks to a grainy-yet-distinct photo sent back by the Russian spacecraft Luna 3.

Space historian Amy Shira Teitel explains how humans were finally able to see the dark side of the moon:×

Luna 3 was launched on the two-year anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, the first satellite to successfully orbit the earth. The image Luna sent back was grainy and indistinct—blame the compounded errors of on-board film development and image transmission through radio waves—but the final result was clear enough: Humans now knew what the dark side of the moon looked like.


Image sent back by Luna 3, via Wikimedia Commons.

It's amazing to think that, just 10 years after we first glimpsed the far side of the moon, humans landed on that orbiting rock. For more on the technical specifications of Luna 3, and how the Soviets accomplished this astronomical imaging task, check out PopSci's Vintage Space blog. [Amy Shira Teitel]

Top Image: A clearer view of the far side of the moon, taken by Apollo 16 in 1972. Image via Wikimedia Commons

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