This site claims that the USSR's Luna 3 probe, the first to photograph the far side of the moon, used special radiation and temperature hardened film taken from downed US spy balloons.

Is this true? Every other source I can find traces back to this site.

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    $\begingroup$ Interesting. The article gives a list of sources and the first "Project Genetrix" link appears to be the source of the claim. Don't know about its credibility though. $\endgroup$ Jul 23, 2019 at 12:05

1 Answer 1


Using film from U.S. spy balloons to take pictures of the Moon http://www.svengrahn.pp.se/trackind/luna3/SpyBalloon.htm

The photographic equipment used for the balloons was of no interest, but the film, created for shooting from high altitudes, was good: highly sensitive and strongly tanned, with a solution temperature of up to 50 degrees. Just what we need ... And we had it, as they say, buried ... This film I decided to use in the "Yenisei".

Why was the thought "crazy"? Yes, because in space, as in the "defense", at that time nothing foreign was allowed. Literally everything - materials, instruments, technologies - had to be only domestic. It was part of the flesh and blood, in the minds of the developers, becoming their ideology. If I had only hinted to someone about the possibility of using an American film, I would be mistaken for a foolish joker or even for a person who was not completely normal. Only two people knew about this venture - me and Volodya Kondratyev, who was engaged in the chemical processes of the Yenisei. We cut an American 180-millimeter film to 35 millimeters, then punched it. We wrote "technical conditions of the film type AB-1", which after having been shown to the military representatives was filed in the appropriate folder with the stamp "top secret". Of course, we both stayed silent. What would become of us if this story was revealed, I can not say. In any case, not only in cosmonautics, but in general, I think we would not have worked for a long time ..."

And I flew to the Tyura-Tam launch site (to this day I can not understand why it is called "Baikonur", because Baikonur itself is located about six hundred kilometers from it) with copies of the TV cameras that were charged with a film of the “AB-1” type [if directly transcribed from Russian this abbreviation would read = Sh=Sharik, i.e. ball or sphere, but I use the letter B to match the interpretation “balloon” for “sharik”).

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    $\begingroup$ @ARumlin: You do such a good job answering questions about Soviet/Russian space programs. I am glad that you are part of our community! Thank you! $\endgroup$
    – DrSheldon
    Jul 23, 2019 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ @DrSheldon Japanese saying: "The original is a diamond, the translation is a glass." Even such a translation does not convey all the details of the original. One detail in the text: "The abbreviation “AB”, I think, is not necessary to decipher. Of course, this is the "American Balloons". Odessites never lose their sense of humor."-"Аббревиатуру «АШ», думаю, и расшифровывать не надо. Конечно, это «Американские шарики». ОДЕССИТОВ никогда не оставляло чувство юмора.". The “sharik” - it's not really a ball or a balloon. This word has a very specific meaning - a balloon, but children's toy. $\endgroup$
    – A. Rumlin
    Jul 23, 2019 at 15:14
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    $\begingroup$ Another interesting fact. Balloons flew on altitudes that were not accessible to fighters. But the Soviet Air Force quickly learned to shoot them down. In the fuselage of the Tupolev Tu-4 was installed a real anti-aircraft gun, which could knock the balloons at such altitudes. Tupolev Tu-4 is copy of Boeing B-29 Superfortress. $\endgroup$
    – A. Rumlin
    Jul 23, 2019 at 19:34

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