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Russia's Luna 15 crashed into the lunar surface shortly after Apollo 11 landed.

It's widely considered a failed sample return mission, but did Russia ever officially announce that sample return was indeed the objective?

The Soviet space program was famously secretive, and the accepted explanation of failed sample return only seems to be a conclusion drawn from the objectives of later Luna landers - as far as I've seen.

Does anyone know if the Soviets ever published official statements or documents about the Luna 15 plan? Can we be certain it was a sample return mission?

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Asif Siddiqi's "The Soviet Space Race With Apollo" mentions the Luna 15 mission here and there. The sample return vehicle was the Ye-8-5, based on the Ye-8 (aka Lunokhod) rover.

Siddiqi cites various articles from the early 1990s (e.g. "The 'Late' Lunar Soil", Novosti kosmonautiki 15, 1994, by Konstantin Lantratov), so I think the details probably became public -- if not formally published -- after the fall of the USSR. Novosti kosmonautiki's online archive only goes back to 2000, unfortunately, so I can't find the article (and I can't read Russian anyway.)

An interesting tidbit in Siddiqi's book is that a last minute 1-kg weight overage on the ascent stage of Luna 15 was resolved by removing a backup radio transmitter. Source: Soviet Space Programs 1966-1970 by Babakin, Banketov, and Smorkalov, and Babakin's biography by the same authors.

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Infinity Beckoned: Adventuring Through the Inner Solar System / 2016

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