In February of 1969, the first launch of the Soviet Moon Rocket, the N-1, exploded. By April, the Soviets still did not have a clear program of subsequent piloted Soyuz fights. In May, the Soviets watched the successful US lunar orbital flight and practice landing of Apollo 10. In June, a Lunar Sample return mission failed when the Block D stage refused to ignite. On July 3rd the second N1 launch failed with a spectacular explosion…
Soviet Luna 15 was designed to take a sample of Lunar soil and return it to Earth
Ye-8 lunar sample return spacecraft – detail of re-entry vehicle Credit: Mark Wade
Finally, on the morning of February 21, all the population of the N1 assembly area and a residential area, situated just south of the launch pad, was ordered to evacuate. The giant service structure then rolled away leaving the dark-gray rocket with a white payload fairing towering under sunny skies. The weather was extremely cold, with temperatures falling to minus 44 C degrees, and stormy winds. In the fortified firing control room, the Commander of the 6th Directorate, took the firing command position at the main periscope…
Apollo CSM/LM vs. Soviet L3 Complex. Credit Mark Wade
N1 image taken by US KH-8 Reconnaissance satellite
When we left the Soviet Union they had somewhat successfully landed a probe on Venus and they had completed the automatic docking of two Soyuz 7K-OK spacecrafts. However they did not reach their goal of a circumlunar flight in time for the 50th anniversary of the glorious revolution.