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Racing to the Moon

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Korolëv also began designing spacecraft for a lunar landing mission, and hardware was built under Mishin's direction. The manned lunar landing program (called L-3) included an orbiter and lander. The prototype lunar lander was successfully tested in Earth orbit, without a crew, three times in 1970 and 1971 under the name Kosmos.

The Soviet lunar lander was half as large and one-third the weight of the U.S. Apollo lunar module. It was intended to carry one cosmonaut to the surface of the Moon while the other stayed in lunar orbit. The program was canceled without a manned flight after repeated test failures of the launch vehicle.

Courtesy of RSC Energia

L-3 lander
109 k jpeg


The Soviets developed this space suit for use by a cosmonaut on the Moon. Called Krechet ("Golden Falcon"), it differs from the Apollo space suit in several ways:

  •  The backpack life-support unit is hinged like a door, allowing the cosmonaut to step into the suit.
  • Although the arms and legs are flexible, the torso of the Krechet suit is a semi-rigid shell.
  • The control panel on the chest folds up out of the way when not in use.
  • The boots are made of flexible leather.

Like the Apollo helmet, the Krechet helmet has a gold-coated outer visor for protection from bright sunlight. The life-support backpacks of the two suits are also similar, containing systems to provide oxygen, suit pressure, temperature and humidity control, and communications.

A similar space suit is used by cosmonauts working outside the Russian space station Mir.

Manufacturer: Zvezda

Lent by The Perot Foundation

Krechet space suit, front view
188 k jpeg
SI#: 97-15886-2
Krechet space suit, back view
260 k jpeg
SI#: 97-15887-11


Soviet cosmonauts had a lunar orbiter, a lunar lander, and a space suit for the Moon. Why didn't they go? The crucial missing piece was a rocket powerful and reliable enough to send a manned spacecraft to the Moon.

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