Though by this time Americans had already walked on the moon, the Soviets launched a series of lunar rovers to the moon between 1969 and 1977 under the program heading Lunokhod (or “moonwalker”). The first Lunokhod didn’t make it through launch (it was given the designation “1A”) but the second, Lunokhod 1, touched down at the moon’s “Sea of Rains” on November 17, 1970, aboard the spacecraft Luna 17.
Though the Soviets had lost the race to the moon, they did have something novel in Lunokhod 1. It was the first remote-controlled rover to land on another planetary body. Luna 17 deposited Lunokhod 1 on the lunar surface via dual ramps that deployed from the spacecraft. Once on the surface, Lunokhod 1 demonstrated many of the rover technologies that are still employed today: special lubricants that keep moving parts working at different atmospheric pressures, electric motors, a radioisotope heater to keep it warm during the lunar night, and solar panels that charge its batteries during the day.
It operated for just short of one year, traveling more than 34,000 feet and transmitting 20,000 pictures during that time. It also created the modern paradigm for rovers that would be followed for decades.