Russia  1959
Luna 3
Schematic diagram of the trajectory of Luna 3 from Earth around the Moon and back again, copiously annotated. At top right is the position of the Moon at time of launch (4 October 1959). Top centre is the Moon at time of Luna 3’s closest approach (6 October 1959); the pictures of the far side were taken on 7 October, over 12 hours after closest approach. Luna 3 was pulled into a long, elliptical orbit around the Earth by its fly-by of the Moon. At top left is supposedly the Moon when Luna 3 returned to perigee, but this did not happen until 18 October so the Moon would in reality have been a lot farther around its orbit by then.

Strangely, this stamp was issued before the two stamps featuring Luna 2 which are next on our list.

Stanley Gibbons catalogue number:

Credit: Thanks to Bob Christy of the Zarya site for help with translations.