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Lunik on Loan: A Space Age Spy Story

Lunik

Lunik on Loan: A Space Age Spy Story

The Cold War and the emerging space race were in full swing in the late 1950s. CIA kept President Eisenhower regularly apprised on the progress of the Soviet space program, which became a subject of worldwide attention following the successful 1957 launch of Sputnik—the first artificial satellite and the first manmade object to be placed into earth's orbit. The Soviets' achievement, which indicated that they had intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States, stunned the American public and set off a debate in the United States about the "Missile Gap," and America's competence in science and technology.

In 1959, a Soviet exhibit of the USSR's industrial and economic achievements toured several countries. This exhibit included displays not only from Sputnik but also the Lunik or Luna (Lunar) spacecraft—the Soviet's first lunar probe. In September of that year, the Lunik 2 became the first manmade object on the moon — a feat that only compounded fears in the United States that the USSR was winning the space race. CIA conducted a covert operation to access the Lunik display to learn more about the USSR's moon program. A team of CIA officers gained unrestricted access to the display for 24 hours, which turned out not to be a replica but a fully-operational system comparable to the Lunik 2. The team disassembled the vehicle, photographed all the parts without removing it from its crate before putting everything back in its place, gaining invaluable intelligence on its design and capabilities. And the Soviets were none the wiser. Sound like something from a movie script? It really happened.

Documents in this Collection

Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®

Document Number: 06355349
Pages:
9
AttachmentSize
PDF icon THE KIDNAPING OF THE LUNI[15732838].pdf327.55 KB

Document Number: 02059199
Pages:
7
AttachmentSize
PDF icon LUNIK II OPERATION[15732839].pdf373.2 KB

Document Number: 06814956
Pages:
6
AttachmentSize
PDF icon EXCERPT OF CURRENT INTELL[15732841].pdf211.05 KB

Document Number: 06063880
Pages:
4

Document Number: 00608969
Pages:
15
AttachmentSize
PDF icon INTELLIGENCE FOR THE SPAC[15732840].pdf506.79 KB