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On January 2, the Soviet Union sends a 790 pound-mass (360-kg) spacecraft, Lunik 1, toward the Moon. Although it misses hitting the Moon by between 3,125 and 4,375 miles (5,000 and 7,000 km), it is the first humanmade object to escape Earth's gravity and go in orbit around the Sun.

In mid-September, the Soviet Union launches Lunik 2. The 860 pound-mass (390-kg) spacecraft successfully impacts on the Moon and becomes the first human-made object to (crash-) land on another world. Lunik 2 carries Soviet emblems and banners to the lunar surface.

On October 4, the Soviet Union sends Lunik 3 on a mission around the Moon. The spacecraft successfully circumnavigates the Moon and takes the first images of the lunar farside. Because of the synchronous rotation of the Moon around Earth, only the near side of the lunar surface is visible to observers on Earth

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