“We Called It ‘The Bug’”

The Apollo Lunar Module wasn’t pretty. But it got the job done.

(Courtesy of NASA)
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If Leonov had managed to land the LK safely, his stay on the surface would have been measured in mere hours: just enough time to plant the hammer and sickle, deploy an extremely limited array of scientific instruments, and grab some rocks. Then the Hero of the Soviet Union would have fired up the very same engine that landed him on the surface and rocketed into orbit to join up with the Soyuz mothership.

The LK was tested unmanned in Earth orbit in 1970 and 1971. But due to ongoing problems with the N-1 launcher (they tended to explode) and lack of political payoff (the U.S. had already won the moon race), the remaining LKs were relegated to Russian museums and the program to the roll call of also-rans in space history.

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