Luna 16, also known as Lunnik 16, was an uncrewed space mission, part of the Soviet Luna program.It was the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a sample of lunar soil to Earth. But the Russian probe’s journey to the Moon was not without any hiccups. Not only was the American mission manned where the Soviet mission was robotic, but Luna 15 was on a trajectory that would have had it land on Earth … NASA was told Luna 15 was an orbiter. ... but Luna 15 crash-landed just as Armstrong and Aldrin were on their way back from the surface. Its aim was to land on the lunar surface, collect rock samples, and return to Earth. Had Luna 15 succeeded in its sample return mission, it still wouldn’t have overshadowed Apollo 11. At 15:50 GMT, contact with Luna 15 was lost just four minutes into its expected six-minute descent with a radar altimeter reading of three kilometers. Not only was the American mission manned where the Soviet mission was robotic, but Luna 15 was on a trajectory that would have had it land on Earth … According to the team at England’s Jodrell Bank, which had been monitoring the Luna 15 mission, the spacecraft had crashed into the lunar surface at a speed of about 130 meters per second. Seven months later, when Apollo 11, with Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong, and Buzz Aldrin aboard, entered orbit around the Moon on July 19, 1969, there was a Soviet spaceship there to meet them. Three days later, Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins entered their Apollo 11 spacecraft as millions of people all over the world were watching the event on TV. It was only during the final moments when Luna 15 started descending down to the lunar surface that astronomers monitoring the Luna mission realized that they were attempting a landing.

Had Luna 15 succeeded in its sample return mission, it still wouldn’t have overshadowed Apollo 11. Luna 14: 4/7/68: Lunar orbiter: Entered lunar orbit on 4/10/68: Luna 14 Information at NSSDC: Luna 15: 7/13/69: Lunar lander: Crashed on Moon 7/21/69 at 15:51 UT Mare Crisium,17°N lat., 60°W long. Luna 15 entered a lunar orbit on July 17, 1969, a whole two days before Apollo 11 reached the lunar orb. Luna 15 was launched three days before the Apollo 11 lift-off. The Luna 16 mission later succeeded where Luna 15 had failed. The last Soviet hope was now the Ye-8-5 program and on 13 July 1969, an UR-500 booster finally hurtled Luna 15 towards the Moon. A Soviet spacecraft, Luna 15, had beat them to orbit days before, circumnavigating the moon in a final Cold War showdown race to land on another celestial body and return home. Russian manned lunar programs.