We always celebrate great space achievements, why not also commemorate some great space screwups? This month marks 60 years since the first time a spacecraft tried to land on the moon but crashed instead. Plus: Mount Airy, NC, where Andy Griffith grew up, is hosting the 30th annual Mayberry Days this week.
If you’ve been following space news lately, you know that India came very close to landing a probe on the moon, only to lose contact with the craft as it descended toward the moon’s south pole.
It was the second time this year a country had what’s called a “hard landing” on its surface.
This month marks the 60th anniversary of the first lunar crash-landing, Luna 2.
It was a Soviet spacecraft, and, as the name suggests, the second attempt at hitting the moon. (Luna 1 never quite made it to the moon and is still out in space somewhere.)
Luna 2 got there in September 1959, and scientists in Moscow were able to keep contact with the probe for 33 1/2 hours, right until it crashed.
Nonetheless, the Luna project kept the Soviets ahead of the US in the space race and was a big PR victory, big enough that when the country’s leader, Nikita Khrushchev, made a visit later that month to a farm in Iowa, one of the Americans who met him, 11 year old Harry Bookey, made a point of bringing up the mission.
He told Khrushchev the Soviets may have been the first to send a craft to the moon, but “we can beat you in sausages.”
What’s ahead this week in Mount Airy, North Carolina sounds pretty promising. The 30th annual Mayberry Days is getting underway. Mount Airy is the town where Andy Griffith grew up, so the festival includes appearances by 11 actors who were on the show, including Betty Lynn, who played Thelma Lou, and Don Knotts’ real-life daughter.
I suddenly have the urge to walk through town whistling..