Launched on 12 September 1970, Luna 16 was the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return samples of lunar soil to Earth.
The spacecraft brought back about 100g of lunar rock and dust from Mare Fecunditatis.
This lunar sample return mission came after five unsuccessful attempts by the Soviet Union, and was the third mission of this kind overall, following the Apollo 11 and 12 spacecraft.
Luna 16 was the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return samples of lunar soil to Earth
Luna 16 was also the first probe to land in darkness.
The spacecraft consisted of two stages – an ascent stage to propel the sample container back to Earth, and a descent stage to provide course corrections, lunar orbit insertion and the landing manoeuvre.
The spacecraft descent stage was equipped with a video camera, radiation and temperature monitors, telecommunications equipment, and a drilling rig.
After perforating the surface for seven minutes, the drill reached a stop at 35 centimetres depth and withdrew the soil sample.
Although Luna 16 went unremarked by the Western media, it was a landmark success for the Soviets in their space exploration programme.
The USSR used it to show that versatile space robots were cheaper than manned flights without putting humans lives at risk.