Listen to Russia’s last-gasp attempt to beat Apollo 11 to the Moon

This recording from Jodrell Bank in the UK tracks the dramatic moment that Russia tried to steal America’s thunder.


On 20 July 1969 NASA’s Apollo 11 spacecraft touched down on the Moon, but it was not alone. On that same day, Russia had their own plans to return a sample from the Moon and outdo the Americans with their unmanned Luna 15 spacecraft.

The dramatic moment that Luna 15 and Apollo 11 made their way to the surface of the Moon was recorded and tracked by scientists at Jodrell Bank Observatory in Manchester. In typical understated British fashion, the scientists in the recording above can be heard calmly discussing the impending landing of two multi-million (or billion) dollar spacecraft on a floating space rock a quarter of a million miles away with about as much excitement as if they were watching a game of cricket. “I say, this has really been drama of the highest order,” quips one of the scientists, no doubt reclining with a glass of port in his hand at the same time.

Things didn’t quite go to plan for the Russians, though. Luna 15 crashed on the surface and all communications were lost, leaving Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to return to Earth as eternal heroes.

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