What was the name of the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a sample of lunar soil?
Luna 16, also known as Lunnik 16, was an unmanned space mission, part of the Soviet Luna program. It followed five unsuccessful previous attempts and was the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a sample of lunar soil to Earth. The sample was returned from Mare Fecunditatis. It represented the first lunar sample return mission by the Soviet Union and was the third lunar sample return mission overall, following the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions.
Three tiny samples (0.2 grams) of the Luna 16 soil were sold at Sotheby's auction for $442,500 in 1993. On November 29, 2018, The Luna 16 fragments sold for US$ 855,000 at Sotheby's.
A series of 10-kopeck stamps were issued in 1970 to commemorate the flight of Luna 16 lunar probe and depicted the main stages of the programme: a soft landing on the Moon, the launch of the lunar soil sample return capsule, and parachute assisted landing back on Earth.