Moon landing: How Soviets beat US to lunar surface – but Express embarrassed Moscow

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong brought an end to the Space Race when NASA’s Apollo 11 mission touched down on the lunar surface. However, the USSR were actually the first to land successfully on the Moon three years earlier. Lunar 9 was an unmanned space mission that successfully achieved a soft landing on February 3, 1966.

Just shy of three minutes after landing in an area known as “Ocean of Storms”, an onboard television system began a photographic survey of the environment, pinging nine pictures back to Earth, including five panoramics.

However, hours earlier, Daily Express reporter Terry Pattinson had received a tip-off that the technology used by the Soviets was the same used by journalists like him to send photos – known as Radiofax.

Speaking to today, Mr Pattinson, 76, revealed: “I was based in Manchester at the time and it was my first national, I loved space and anything to do with rockets.

“We knew the Russians were taking photos and I wanted a scoop different to the other reporters.

He rang me and told me not to tell anyone, not even my wife!

Terry Pattinson

“I got a tip from Sir Bernard Lovell (Director of a nearby observatory) that they were using the same equipment as the press – and I immediately got in touch with my editor.

“He rang me and told me not to tell anyone, not even my wife!”

Mr Pattinson, who now lives in Maidenhead, Berkshire, detailed the efforts he went to in order to deliver a picture receiver and a forerunner of the fax to scientists at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester.

He explained to “We ended up knocking down the wall of the darkroom – to get to the equipment needed to receive the photos.

“We put it on a lorry and took it to the observatory, where the scientists were waiting.

“The Express got the photos before the Russians and we sold them to the rest of the world.

“My editor turned to me and said it was the scoop of the century.”

The Kremlin was left red-faced after their planned historic unveiling backfired.

However, it has been argued that Soviet scientists had deliberately fitted the probe with standard television equipment to enable the West to receive the photos. 

If true, it would have been a dig at NASA’s Ranger 6 mission of 1964, which failed to return images due to a system failure.

It was not until July 16, 1969, that the US would surpass the Soviets in the Space Race.

Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins blasted off in the Saturn V rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre on Merritt Island, Florida.

It would take them four days to reach their target, before Armstrong would return home as a hero, having been the first man to step foot on the Moon.

Once there, Armstrong delivered his “one small step” speech to the millions watching at home.

However, it has been revealed after almost half a century how things would have been much different had Deke Slayton – who was in charge of Apollo 11 – got his way.

Apollo 8 boss Christopher Kraft admitted earlier this month: “Did I have anything to do with Neil being the first man on the Moon? Yes. I did it.

“Deke Slayton said ‘Aldrin will be the first guy on the Moon’ but up here [in my head] said ‘we don’t want Aldrin on the Moon’.

“I just felt like Buzz was not the right personality and would not be the best representative for the United States.

I thought Neil would do better.

“I didn’t dislike Aldrin, didn’t like him either, we all have weaknesses, I didn’t know Jesus when I met him though.”

The American aerospace engineer is a retired NASA employee who was one of the most senior figures of the Apollo series, becoming director of the Manned Spacecraft Centre in 1972.

As head of Flight Operations, Kraft was closely involved in planning and management of the Apollo 8 series during 1968, but he couldn’t help getting involved in other missions, too.

His decision would turn out to pay dividends.

Source: Read Full Article