Lunokhod (Russian: Луноход, international title: The Moonwalkers) is a 2013 Margovyan drama suspense science fiction movie inspired by the Lost Cosmonauts conspiracy theory in which Soviet cosmonauts successfully managed to land on the moon a year after America's last manned Moon mission, Apollo 17. It stars Baba Filitov, Salim Kruger, Boris Kirov, Yuri Yurievsky, Georgiy Dostalinsky, Tanya Numismatova, and Nikolay Barzilovich.
In 2006, Margovyan billionaire Ruma Sikhovich acquired over a hundred documents from the Penderek Archive, a collection of documents amassed by the late Dimitri Penderek during his days as a general in the Soviet Air Force. Weeks before he was arrested for embezzlement of public funds in 2013, Sikhovich turned over the papers to his brother Ervin. He was so taken by the story told by the formerly classified documents that he approached his director godson Rurik Pankavuranov to make a movie about the files.
The film cuts back to 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War. Captain of Aviation Andrey Mitkov (Georgiy Dostalinsky), a Soviet "advisor" to the North Vietnamese Air Force, is leading a flight of four Vietnamese trainees when they encounter a USAF fighter-bomber group coming home from bombing North Vietnam. All four of his wingmen are shot down almost immediately, and only his advanced training in his MiG-21,made him survive the onslaught. Armed with only missiles and a 30 millimeter cannon, he shoots down one of the American jets, and the rest quickly broke off the attack. He later learns that he shot down the American patrol's commander, which made the other American pilots lose heart and flee. Back at his base, he receives a letter stating that he has just been chosen for the Soviet Union's cosmonaut program. At the same time, at the opposite side of the world, in Bulgaria, Captain of Aviation Sergey Shiborin (Nikolay Barzilovich) receives the same letter of acceptance into the cosmonaut program. Meanwhile, back in the Soviet Union, textile mill worker Maria Gromova (Tanya Numismatova) is one of seven women accepted into the female cosmonaut corps.
Andrey, Sergey, and Maria meet in Star City, Russia, where the cosmonauts train. They are witness to the death of Yuri Gagarin, the Soviets' losing the Moon to the Americans in 1969, and the political and scientific pressures which led to the cancellation of the Soviet manned lunar missions. By 1973, the three of them are in the space program purely out of a combination of loyalty to the motherland and the increased benefits to their families by their being cosmonauts. But a change in their fortunes come their way in the form of Colonel General Dimitri Penderek (Baba Filitov), a high-ranking official who believes that the Soviet Union can still get to the moon. He has given the commanders of the cosmonaut program, Generals Ruslan Tafirov (Salim Kruger), Rostislav Kerov (Boris Kirov), and Ivan Istochnikov (Yuri Yurievsky), access to the Union's "black projects" fund. Plans for a manned lunar mission are reactivated, and a modified version of Sergey Korolyov's N1 rocket are approved for production. Cosmonauts are selected for the missions, with Andrey, Sergey, and Maria being selected as the prime crew of the first mission, codenamed Lunokhod 3.
After six months of training, Andrey, Sergey, and Maria are finally ready to blast off to the moon and into history books. As the days to their coming launch approach, the cosmonauts arrange a drinking party. Emotions flow free at the party, and the three end up sleeping with each other, but they will all keep quiet about this event. Finally, on July 30, 1973, Lunokhod 3 is ready for launch. Penderek, the mission's flight director, gives the go-ahead from Star City to launch. As the N1 blasts off, one of its first stage engines cuts off before it should, but the redesigned rocket meant that the other 29 engines were burned just a little bit longer than usual, rather than blowing up on the pad and potentially taking the cosmonauts' lives. Finally, Lunokhod 3 is in space, and the Soviet moonshot has begun in earnest.
Lunokhod 3 arrives in lunar orbit on August 3. Mitkov, as mission commander, boards the LK lander Velikiy Soyuz and descends onto the Moon. The first Russian words spoken on the Moon were, "It may have been a small step for the Americans, but it is a very big leap for me!" He plants the Soviet flag on a very small pile of moondust that he himself made with his gloved hands and booted feet.
Mitkov is ordered to initiate the scientific experiments that have been brought onboard Velikiy Soyuz, such as plant growth in low-gravity locations. While waiting for the experiments, he begins collecting moon rocks, mostly for the scientists to analyze, but some will become souvenirs for him and his crew. Andrey grows to like one specific moon rock so much that he paints it pink and purple and calls it "Pavel Andreyevich," after a close friend back on Earth. However, on the fourth day of the mission, when Mitkov begins rambling to Star City about how they had been keeping him in isolation up there on the Moon, and that Pavel Andreyevich had discovered General Penderek's "devilishly cunning plan," Generals Tafirov, Kirov, and Istochnikov all concur that Mitkov has "space sickness" and orders him to return to the LOK, which he is more than happy to do.
Lunokhod 3 finally returns to Earth on August 12, 1973. However, instead of the very hearty welcome that they expected, Mitkov, Shiborin, and Gromova are all put in an isolation chamber in Star City because Mitkov's conduct during the fourth day on the Moon was "unbecoming of a Soviet cosmonaut," at least according to General Penderek. Meanwhile, three more cosmonauts, Gennady Zavadovsky (Yevgeniy Zosimin), Ivan Kachur (Denis Parakletov), and Lyudmila Yekhanurova (Ivetta Zakshina), are prepared for a second moonshot, one that could be proudly announced to the world. Lunokhod 4 is launched on December 1, 1973, and enters a polar orbit around the moon on December 5. Unfortunately, a mysterious incident leads to the loss of Zavadovsky and his LK, and as Kachur and Yekhanurova return in the LOK, Penderek orders the Almaz-1 military space station, manned by Rostislav Bytchkov (Dynamo Keruzov) and armed with a 20-millimeter anti-aircraft cannon, to open fire on Lunokhod 4. Three shots pierce the LOK's hull, and the craft disintegrates as it reenters the Earth's atmosphere, killing the two remaining cosmonauts. Mitkov, Shiborin, and Gromova witness this from Star City, while two cosmonauts docking with a Salyut space station, Ruslan Gavrilovsky (Genrikh Antonov) and Abram Ozov (Boris Sorbariyev), see the shooting from space. All witnesses are ordered to keep quiet on the events or suffer summary execution.
Nobody ever found out what killed Zavadovsky on the Moon, but whatever it was, it made Penderek decide that killing two cosmonauts was better than risk spreading whatever it was getting to Earth. Very recently declassified documents and video reels reveal that Zavadovsky most probably encountered the same extraterrestrial life form that also took out Apollo 18. Almost every witness to the Lunokhod 4 incident died not telling anyone about the Soviet moonshot's final deadly secret, except for Penderek, who wrote down everything on a diary that he intended to be preserved for posterity.
- Georgiy Dostalinsky as Major of Aviation Andrey Mitkov
- Nikolay Barzilovich as Major of Aviation Sergey Shiborin
- Tanya Numismstova as Major of Aviation (Honorary) Maria Gromova
- Baba Filitov as Colonel General of Aviation Dimitri Penderek
- Salim Kruger as Major General of Aviation Ruslan Tafirov
- Boris Kirov as Major General of Aviation Rostislav Kerov
- Yuri Yurievsky as Major General of Aviation Ivan Istochnikov
- Yevgeniy Zosimin as Gennady Zavadovsky
- Denis Parakletov as Ivan Kachur
- Ivetta Zakshina as Ludmilla Yekhanurova
- Dynamo Keruzov as Rostislav Bytchkov
- Genrikh Antonov as Ruslan Gavrilovsky
- Boris Sorbariyev as Abram Ozov