On This Day in Space! July 13, 1969: Soviet Union launches Luna 15 moon mission

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On July 13, 1969, the Soviet Union launched its Luna 15 spacecraft on a mission to the moon. Luna 15 was a robotic sample return mission sent to retrieve some lunar soil and bring it back to Earth.

It launched just three days before Apollo 11, which brought the first astronauts to the lunar surface. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin beat Luna 15 to the moon by about 20 hours. Talk about a space race!

Just a few minutes after the Soviet spacecraft began its descent on July 21, it unexpectedly crashed into a mountain and stopped transmitting data back to mission control.

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