A dramatic and previously unheard recording of the moment the Russians tried to beat the American’s Moon landing in 1969 has been released by The University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics. The recordings were made in the Control Room of the famous Jodrell Bank Observatory, where astronomer Sir Bernard Lovell and colleagues were listening to transmissions coming from the moon.
They were buried in the archives until astronomers at Jodrell Bank started researching material to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Moon landings.
In July 1969 the telescopes at Jodrell Bank were tracking the American’s Eagle Lander carrying astronauts onto the surface of the Moon.
At the same time Jodrell Bank scientists were also tracking the unmanned Soviet spacecraft Luna 15, which was trying to land on the Moon, collect samples of lunar soil and rock and then return to Earth to scoop the US Apollo 11 mission.
The data captured by the Lovell radio telescope revealed this rocket orbited the Moon and crash-landed onto its surface at 15:50 on 21st July – just a few hours before the Americans lifted off from the Moon’s surface.
In the newly released recordings, which were made over three days in mid-July, Sir Bernard Lovell – founder of the Jodrell Bank Observatory and the man behind the famous Lovell radio telescope – can be heard narrating events. Transmissions from the Apollo 11 astronauts can also be heard in the background.
Sir Bernard notes a change in the orbit of Luna 15 to take it closer to the US landing site and later reports a rumour from a ‘well-informed source in Moscow’ that the craft is about to land.
People in the Control Room can then be heard exclaiming ‘it’s landing’ and ‘it’s going down much too fast’ as they track Luna 15’s final moments before it crashes.
A voice is later heard saying: “I say, this has really been drama of the highest order.”
An edited MP3 file of the recordings can be heard here.
It is also available from Alex Waddington, Media Relations Officer, The University of Manchester, email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel 0161 275 8387 or 07717 881569.
Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff