How close were the Russians to landing a man on the moon?

Well the title basically says it all.

I’ve watched “From the Earth to the Moon” and I know there was major urgencey to beat Russia to the moon. Once the Americans got there, did the Russians just give up? I don’t recall them mentioning the Russians after the fact they landed on the moon.

If the Russians were close, was their solution (LEM etc) similar to the Americans.



I saw a documentary on this about 10 years back.

They showed the Russian moon lander and associated equipment, sitting in a hanger somewhere, in storage.

Boy, did that thing look crude - more like a steam engine than a space vehicle.

The Soviets had a number of problems getting their man on the moon program started. While the government wanted to get to the moon before the United States they didn’t approve funding for the program until mid 1964. There were also many technological problems the Soviets had to over come.

Check out for more information. This site tells the history of the Soviet moon program along with links and pictures of the launch vehicle, moon lander etc.

Here’s another good link. It tells the story of Russia’s N1, their equivalent of the Saturn V booster. Basically, they never got it to work reliably.

Because of this, and their late start (1964), it was never really a horserace. Had we suffered another disaster (after Apollo 1) it might have been a lot closer. The Soviets didn’t cancel their moon program until 1974.

Well, that’s the way space hardware looks, even today. (The Russian Venera probes are still my favourite. :))
I didn’t know about the other problems… I’d always understood that the failure of their largest rockets was the stumbling block, plus waning support after the successful U.S. missions.

If you go to the top page of that site you’ll see many more articles about Soviet lunar landers and boosters.

Here’s an updated version of the aforementioned link.

An interesting note: a few of the Soviet lunar landers designs incorperated the reentry capsule INTO the lander itself-they’d take it to the lunar surface with them.