Thursday 17 September 2015

The Cyclopean Eye of the Soviet LK Lunar Lander

Regular readers of long standing may be aware of my love of space, spacecraft, and astronomy.

Within that I'm a great admirer of the Soviet space programme of the cold war era. Yes, I know it came from an awful system, but it was worked on by good men such as Alexei Leonov , the cosmonaut-artist slated to be the first man on the moon by the Soviets.

That there was a Soviet Lunar programme was not well known until the 90s and the collapse of the Soviet Union following the failed coup against Mikhail Gorbachev. It was not long after that that I watched enthralled as the first television documentary about it entered the hangar where the proposed Russian lunar module, the LK Lander, had been in storage since the programme was cancelled.

It epitomises something else I always liked about the Soviet space programme - the 50s sci-fi "valve-punk" design of their spacecraft, and the low-tech feel of everything. That is not to denigrate their equipment in any way; the Soyuz spacecraft is still taking people to the International Space Station 50 years after it first flew and has long outlasted the Space Shuttle.

The LK Lander illustrates this beautifully. Compare it with the more advanced, but less characterful, NASA Lunar Module.

Image from the Science Museum

It looks like it ought to house an HG Wells Martian invader.

Of course, it never flew to the moon in the end. It would have been very risky for its single cosmonaut to operate, and the Apollo 11 landing more or less destroyed its raison d'etre. Then the enormous explosion of its proposed N1 Launcher in one of the largest artificial non nuclear blasts ever, confined it to its hanger for the rest of time.

Until now. The Science Museum has it on display, in their Cosmonauts exhibition I'd dearly like to see. If any of my readers go, let me know what it is like!



  1. This is so cool! I love anything related to space, and I knew very little about this so I am intrigued! I love the design of the lander, it does look like something out of an H.G. Wells' novel! Brilliant post, really interesting Simon. - Tasha

  2. Thanks Natasha, I think it's a wondrous thing. Just like on of Alvin Correa's illustration for War of the Worlds