When you search for the very first picture of the far side of the Moon on the Internet, only a very low quality version can be found. A few days ago I purchased a book published by the USSR Academy of Sciences in 1959 and I gladly stared at the much better images in it. I hope you are going to enjoy too.

The Soviets' Luna 3 spacecraft returned the first views ever of the far side of the Moon in 1959. The first image was taken at 03:30 UT on 7 October at a distance of 63,500 km after Luna 3 had passed the Moon and looked back at the sunlit far side (arrows indicate the direction of the sunlight):


A total of 29 photographs were taken, covering 70% of the far side. The last image was taken 40 minutes later from 66,700 km. The photographs were very noisy and of low resolution, but many features could be recognized.

Main parts of the Luna-3 spacecraft (pictured above):

1. window for the cameras
2. orientation thrusters
3. head of the orientation control system
4. solar panels
5. shutters of the thermostatic system
6. cooling mirrors
7. aerials
8. heads of scientific instruments


This is the first image returned by Luna 3, taken by the wide-angle lens, it showed the far side of the Moon. The right three-quarters of the disk are the far side:

The dark spot at upper right is Mare Moscoviense, the dark area at lower left is Mare Smythii. The small dark circle at lower right with the white dot in the center is the crater Tsiolkovskiy and its central peak. The Moon is 3475 km in diameter and north is up in this image. Here is a closer crop of the original photo:


Image source: Первые фотографии обратной стороны луны. Издательство Академии наук СССР, 1959. (Hungarian edition: Első felvételek a Hold túlsó oldaláról. A Szovjetúnió Tudományos Akadémiájának közleménye. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest, 1960.)

(Text partially ripped from NASA.)