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Several space history articles written by one author and published in venues like Ars Technica appear to be plagiarized from other sources.

Plagiarism in several space history articles

<< page 2: similarities between the May 2013 Ars Technica and January 2010 Air & Space article

Similarities between the September 2012 article and Andy Chaikin’s Lunokhod article for Air & Space

In March 2004 Air & Space published an article by noted space historian Andy Chaikin on the early 1970s Soviet Lunokhod lunar rovers. The article was titled “The Other Moon Landings,” but did not appear online until 2008, when it was placed on the Air & Space website.

In September 2012, Ms. Teitel published an article on titled “Remembering the Moon’s earliest robotic explorers,” that was clearly copied from Mr. Chaikin’s article.

THERE WAS A TIME, in the early years of the space race, when the moon seemed to be Soviet territory. The first man-made object to reach the moon was the Soviet Luna 2 probe, which struck the surface in September 1959. A month later Luna 3 gave humanity its first glimpse of the moon’s far side. In February and March 1966, Luna 9 transmitted the first pictures from the lunar surface and Luna 10 orbited the moon. And in September 1968 a handful of turtles and simpler organisms aboard the Soviets’ Zond 5 became the first living beings to make a circumlunar voyage. By then, planners within the USSR were hopeful that the first words spoken from the surface of the moon would be Russian.

Even rightly so, too often the Apollo program dominates the narrative of early lunar exploration. The Soviet Union ran its own lunar program in the 1960s and ’70s, and it was so successful early on that it looked like the Moon would be Soviet territory.

The first ever man-made object to land on its surface in 1959 was the Soviet-launched Luna 2. The first image of the lunar far side came during a flyby by Luna 3 the same year. In 1966, Luna 9 transmitted the first pictures from the surface of the Moon, and Luna 10 would enter into its orbit. In 1968, a handful of turtles and other simple organisms even made the first circumlunar voyage aboard Zond 5.

But when a trio of U.S. astronauts orbited the moon in December 1968, that hope all but died. Apollo 8’s triumph sent a shock wave through the Soviet space hierarchy, which realized that the political victory of landing the first men on the moon would soon go to the Americans. Soviet leaders wondered what to do in response. Ultimately they focused on robotic missions, which were not only easier and cheaper than piloted lunar voyages but would also give them a chance to spin their space program as a scientific venture, rather than one conducted just for the sake of Cold War competition. The Luna missions were to include an automated sample-return probe; the government ordered that effort accelerated.

On a second attempt after a June 1969 launch failure, Luna 15 began circling the moon on July 17, 1969, two days before the Apollo 11 astronauts themselves entered lunar orbit for the first manned landing attempt. If all went according to plan, the Soviet craft could be back on Earth with a container of lunar soil a day after the astronauts returned— close enough to upstage the U.S. achievement, or, if Apollo 11 failed, to give the Soviets an outright triumph. But on July 21, as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were preparing to lift off from the Sea of Tranquillity [sic], Luna 15, while making its descent into the Sea of Crises, smashed into a mountain. Not until September 20, 1970, did Luna 16 alight safely on the Sea of Fertility and carry out a sample-return mission.

But Apollo 8 swept the rug out from the Soviet’s feet; three astronauts going into orbit in December of that year all but assured the world that the political victory of landing on the Moon would go to the Americans. So the Soviets reshaped their lunar program, choosing to focus on inexpensive robotic mission that put science goals at the core.

Luna Sets The Stage
The Soviet's robotic visits to the Moon started with the Luna program. The first phase began in the late 1950s, with the first three missions designed as tests to scratch the surface of lunar exploration.

The second phase saw another 11 missions launched, each made to prove the program’s technology was sound and worth pursuing.

The third wave of Luna missions, 10 in total, made up the Soviet’s detailed exploration of the Moon. Within this third phase were two more sophisticated means of lunar exploration — landers and rovers. These larger payloads used the four-stage Proton rocket and went into orbit before making precise landings on the surface.

Soviet Russia’s robotic program and America’s Apollo went head-to-head in July 1969. Luna 15 entered into lunar orbit on July 17, just two days before the Apollo 11 astronauts reached the Moon. The mission called for Luna 15 to return a soil sample the day after Apollo 11 splashed down, not overshadowing the U.S. achievement but matching it scientifically. But on July 21, as the Eagle launched from the Sea of Tranquility, Luna 15 crashed into a mountain during its descent to the Sea of Crises.

Two months later on September 20, Luna 16 landed safely on the Sea of Fertility and managed a successful sample-return mission. Impressive as that was, the Soviet Union’s robotic missions were about to evolve once more as its space program readied the Lunokhod rovers.

With the Soviet manned landing effort in limbo, a rover was slated to substitute for human explorers. Its name was Lunokhod, Russian for “moonwalker.” The first challenge chief designer Georgiy Babakin and his team at the Lavochkin Design Institute faced was protecting their machine from the temperature extremes it would encounter on the moon. Lunokhod would have to operate in the blistering heat of the two-week lunar day, up to 240 degrees Fahrenheit, and survive the frigid two-week lunar night, when temperatures plummet to 290 degrees below zero. To control temperatures inside the rover, designers chose a tub-like pressurized shell, topped by a lid that could be opened and closed on command from Earth. The lid, which contained an array of solar cells for charging the rover’s batteries, would be kept open during the day so the cells could absorb solar energy. Before sunset the lid would be closed, and the rover would go into hibernation as radioactive polonium-210 warmed vital components inside. For locomotion, designers at the All Union Science and Research Institute of Transportation tested a variety of designs for the seven-foot-long rover, including tractors, walkers, and even jumpers, but in the end chose eight individually controlled wheels, each supported by spokes and covered with wire mesh to aid mobility in powdery soil.

The Lunokhod Rovers
The Lunokhod rovers were designed to withstand the challenges of extended exploration in the lunar environment. It was built to survive the blistering 240°F heat of the two-week long lunar day, then survive the frigid, -290° two-week-long lunar night. Designers dealt with temperature changes by keeping the rover’s key components in a pressurized shell and adding a cover. When open, solar arrays on the inside charged the rover's batteries. It could be closed for hibernation during the lunar nights. To regulate the rover's internal temperature, radioactive polonium-210 kept the vital components inside warm.

For locomotion, Lunokhod used eight individually controlled wheels supported by spokes and covered with wire mesh for improved mobility in powdery soil, but they were fixed. To turn, the driver would use more power on one side than the other, the same way a tank driver turns his vehicle.

Once Lunokhod was on the moon, the success of the mission would be in the hands of two five-man crews chosen from the military’s missile defense corps. In the spring of 1968, candidates were carefully screened for engineering expertise, capacity for prolonged mental focus and attention, quick reaction times, the ability to process information quickly, good long-term and short-term memory, and vision and hearing. So thorough was the selection process that some of the men thought they were being recruited for the cosmonaut corps, until they were told of their real mission: to operate the first wheeled vehicle on the surface of another world.

Only one member of each crew would drive the rover. Behind him would sit the crew commander, who would oversee the driver’s handling of the rover. Joining them in the control room would be a navigator, a radio antenna operator, and the flight engineer, who would monitor the rover’s systems. Each crew would operate the rover for two hours; then the other crew would take control. At the Lavochkin plant the crew members familiarized themselves with every aspect of the craft and spent hours practicing with a mockup on a specially constructed “lunodrome” near the mission’s control center, in the Crimean city of Simferopol.

An exploding booster doomed the initial launch attempt in February 1969, but the second try landed Lunokhod 1 at the western edge of the moon’s Sea of Rains on November 17, 1970. Under driver Gabdulkhay Latypov’s control, the rover descended one of the two ramps extended from the descent stage and stood on the moon’s surface, ready to begin its expedition.

Gripping in his right hand a control stick that resembled a car’s gearshift, Latypov could make the rover go forward at one of two speeds (0.5 or 1.2 mph) or go in reverse. He and Vyacheslav Dovgan, the other crew’s driver, turned the craft not by rotating the wheels, which were fixed, but by slowing down one side relative to the other, the way one steers a tank.

Lunokhod would also have to be a surrogate for the scientists on Earth, so driving the rover was another challenge. Two five-man crews, chosen and screened from the Russian military's missile defense corps, shared the job. One member of each crew would drive the rover, backwards or forwards, using a joystick. It could go at one of two speeds: 0.5 or 1.2 miles per hour. The commander on a crew would sit behind the driver, monitoring his activity. A navigator, a radio antenna operator and a flight engineer, charged with monitoring the rover's systems, rounded out the crew.

The first piece of Lunokhod hardware was actually launched independent of a rover on April 7, 1968. The Luna 14 mission carried a test electric motor into lunar orbit. The mission reached the Moon three days after launch and worked for another five before falling silent. Another shot on February 19, 1969, carried a Lunokhod but never made it to the Moon; the launch vehicle exploded, ending the mission.

Latypov and Dovgan’s only guidance came from a monitor, which displayed images from Lunokhod’s two low-resolution television cameras. To any video game enthusiast it sounds simple—but this was nothing like a video game. The cameras did not send a continuous stream of images, but rather single frames, like a slide show, at intervals that varied from seven to 20 seconds. And because radio signals took three seconds to travel round trip between Earth and the moon, the driver didn’t see the results of his actions for many long moments. For this reason, if crew commanders Nikolai Yeremenko and Igor Fyodorov saw Lunokhod heading toward catastrophe, they could push a button to halt the rover.

Dovgan, now 66, was well prepared by intensive training. “Driving on the moon felt even easier than it was in the lunodrome,” he says, but his comment belies the difficulties of navigating the rover. The low resolution of the slide show made it difficult to spot craters and boulders, especially at high sun angles, and there was a “dead zone”—a three-foot-wide area immediately in front of the rover that Lunokhod’s cameras could not see. The only solution, according to Dogvan [sic], was to memorize the features in this area from the previous image, before the rover reached it. “When we were looking ahead and thinking of the obstacles that we did see, we also had to remember what was just behind,” he says.

Guidance came from a monitor that displayed images from Lunokhod's two low-resolution television cameras. The crew got single frames, like images in a slide show, every seven to 20 seconds. From those, they would control the rover in near real time. But because of the three second communications delay, the driver had to wait a number of seconds to see how well his commands had been executed. As a safety measure, the rover had a stop button the crew could press if they saw the rover heading towards trouble. It would immediately shut Lunokhod down.

The low resolution images made navigating around craters and boulders difficult. Particularly at lunar noon, when the sun was at too high an angle to cast helpful shadows; the crew shut operations down for three Earth days that corresponded with lunar noon. But the bigger navigation challenge was the “dead zone” in the rover's field of view — a three-foot-wide area immediately in front of it that the cameras couldn’t see. The driver had to memorize the previous slide and any hazards before looking at the next image.

Meanwhile, on the Sea of Rains, with its Earthbound masters ever mindful of its safety, Lunokhod made halting progress until, on November 22, having traveled some 646 feet, the rover was put to sleep for the approaching two-week night. During the hibernation, astronomers in Crimea and the French Alps bounced a laser beam off a French-built reflector mounted on the rover; these experiments were designed to provide ultra-accurate measurements of the moon’s periodic wobbles, called librations, as well as the moon’s distance from Earth. Some team members worried about whether Lunokhod could be revived, but after the sun had risen on the Sea of Rains, the rover was ready for its first full lunar day of work.

As the controllers gained more experience, they also gained confidence, until they were able to let the rover proceed as long as they could see no clear hazard on the monitors. Progress had to be halted for three days during the lunar noon, when the lack of shadows made driving too dangerous. Lunokhod logged almost an additional mile before night fell. And during the third workday, starting on January 17, navigators steered the rover back to its landing spot, where the landing stage stood like a tiny fortress.

It was around this time that Basilevsky ventured into the control room at last. “I came and brought a chair with me,” he says. “Nobody allowed me, actually. I just did it. And I stayed. And they looked at me, and nobody said anything. The next day I came with my chair again, feeling ‘I have a right to do this.’ And then, it was my place.”

For 11 months the rover cycled between periods of activity during the lunar days, a forced stop during lunar noon, and hibernation during the lunar nights. In the last phase, the rover’s cover would close and astronomers in Crimea and the French Alps would bounce a laser beam off a French-built reflector mounted on the rover. It was an experiment designed to provide accurate measurements of the Moon’s periodic wobbles, and the distance between the Earth and our natural satellite.

As the mission wore on, controllers gained experience and confidence in their rover’s abilities. Then, on October 4, 1971, Lunokhod 1 stopped responding to radio signals. It was fittingly on the anniversary of Sputnik’s 1957 launch that the Soviet Union declared its first rover dead. Over the course of its mission, it traveled 6.5 miles, transmitted over 20,000 TV pictures and more than 200 TV panoramas, and conducted over 500 lunar soil tests.

Then, on May 9, 1973, the crew made a fatal mistake. “The sun was behind us,” Basilevsky says. “In the navigation camera we saw a beautiful smooth surface.” But the pictures were deceiving. All shadows were hidden behind the objects casting them—including crater walls. Before anyone realized what had happened, Lunokhod descended into a crater some 15 feet across. What the crew should have done, Basilevsky says, was to stop, close the rover’s lid, then take a panorama to see where they were; instead, the controllers started maneuvering Lunokhod out of the crater. The lid touched the crater wall, resulting in part of the solar cells being covered with soil. “ We immediately felt it, because the electric current dropped,” Basilevsky says. Within an hour of entering the crater, Lunokhod had re-emerged, and all seemed well—until everyone realized what would happen as night approached. The rover’s lid would have to be closed to keep it from freezing during the night. When the team closed the lid, they dumped lunar grime on the radiator, which was supposed to get rid of excess heat during the day. “We put on this radiator the best insulator—lunar soil,” Basilevsky laments.

With the arrival of a new day, the lid was opened, and soon afterward, as the rover began its work, sensors showed the temperature aboard Lunokhod 2 increasing. Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the rover would die.

Lunokhod 2. But on May 9 they made one fatal misstep: the sun was behind the rover, giving the appearance of a smooth surface ahead, when really the rover was heading towards a crater. It drove straight in, but survived. What the crew should have done was close the lid and taken a panorama to see their surroundings and plot their route out. They didn't. Instead, they just pressed on, trying to manoeuver out. In doing so, they brushing [sic] the side of the crater with the lid. They knew it immediately; the power dropped out suddenly as regolith covered the solar panels. As Lunokhod 2 entered the next lunar night, the crew had no choice but to close the lid, dumping the Moon dust on the rover's radiator that released built-up heat during the lunar days. With material covering this vital instrument, the rover emerged from hibernation and started overheating immediately.

Before that happened, Basilevsky realized, Lunokhod could make a risky but potentially rewarding venture to some nearby, geologically intriguing mountains. He told the controllers, “Go to that place; we will die like heroes. If we just go stupidly in some safe direction, we will die anyway.” But mission managers were unwilling to risk it, and once the temperatures aboard Lunokhod climbed above 150 degrees Fahrenheit, Basilevsky says, “That was the end.”

A third Lunokhod was planned, and there was talk of a mission more ambitious and potentially much more rewarding than Lunokhod. Named Sparka, from the Russian word for “pair,” the mission would team a Lunokhod-style rover with a Luna sample-return craft. Roaming the moon, the Sparka rover would pick up samples with a robotic arm, take pictures, and carry its geologic treasures to a waiting sample-return vehicle. With a well-chosen, well-documented collection of samples, Sparka promised a scientific return equalling [sic] that of the Apollo landings.

It was not to be. Support for more robotic missions to the moon evaporated as interest shifted to a more distant and mysterious goal: Mars. Already, the Soviets had tried two times to land instruments on the Red Planet without success, and it was public knowledge that the United States was planning its own Mars landings, in a program called Viking.

The mission ended on June 3; the Soviets declared the rover dead. Lunokhod 2 hadn’t lasted as long as its predecessor, but it packed just a shade under 23 miles into its mission, over 80,000 TV pictures and 86 TV panoramas, and over 700 lunar soil tests. All in all, it a striking success.

The Future that Wasn’t
Building off the successes of Lunokhods 1 and 2, the Soviet Union planned on sending a third rover to the Moon. They also considered a more ambitious mission called Sparka, which would send a team of Lunokhod-type rovers to the surface with a sample return vehicle; the rovers would drive to interesting sites, collect samples, and deposit them in the sample return vehicle that would take the collection Earth [sic].

It would be scientifically on par with the material returned by Apollo astronauts, but it never came to fruition. The Soviets turned their attention to Mars midway through the decade, ending an impressive and fruitful remote-controlled exploration of the Moon.

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