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According to a story found on, on this day in 1970, the USSR’s Luna 16 mission landed in Kazakhstan with the first samples of lunar soil ever to be returned by a robotic spacecraft.

While the Soviet lunar program is often overlooked because of the more prominent Apollo program, many extremely important advances and firsts were made by the Soviet spacecraft. Luna 16 demonstrated the viability of a robotic sample return mission, and was a precursor to other wildly successful robotic spacecraft we have used to explore Mars, dwarf planets and the outer reaches of the solar system.