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Soviet Space Program Had A Ball Spreading Propaganda On The Moon

The "Luna 2" slammed into the Moon by design in 1959, becoming the first manmade object to reach the lunar surface.

As you can see in the NASA image to the left, it looks like a pretty ungainly craft.

But coming two years after the Soviet triumph of "Sputnik 1" and in a flurry of Soviet successes in the space race at the height of the Cold War, the "Luna 2" certainly left its mark.

It left something else as well.

American artist Randy Regier, who frequently employs old parts from military or industrial equipment to great effect, shared a replica of one such Soviet lunar memento in a Flickr photo set he calls "Who's On First?"

It's a sphere made of pentagonal silver panels with the Soviet state symbol and "USSR January 1959" repeated in Cyrillic in relief. And it's one of at least two copies of the objects used in the actual mission -- and now scattered around the Moon's surface, if they survived impact. (The other was gifted to U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower by Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev.)

Says Regier:

I'm an object person, So, it goes with the territory that I tend to trust them [objects]. The first on the Moon? Well, object-ively speaking? The Russians, Damn it.

The photos come from a visit to the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center, which in addition to genuine spacecraft also houses artifacts from the history of spaceflight.

Regier also shared an image of the amusing placard that accompanies the orb:

In fact, the spheres aboard the craft were said to have been loaded with explosives to keep the medallions mostly intact by offsetting the force of the collision with the Moon's surface.

It's just one of the oddball things -- in addition to scores of orbiters, rovers, and other spacecraft (reportedly totaling nearly 179,000 kilograms of junk) -- that humans have left on the Moon.

Thanks to BoingBoing for spotting those pics.

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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