I was watching the Science Channel this afternoon and saw a documentary, "Tank on the Moon," that detailed Soviet efforts to land a remote controlled vehicle on the moon in the early 1970's.
And they did, twice, on November 17, 1970 and January 15, 1973. Lunokhod-1 was operational for almost a year. Lunokhod-2 may have become non-operational as early as mid-May 1973.
There is a bit of hype to the program but it is still interesting. The Unmanned Space Flight blog has some input on this. This was not a top secret operation; instead, the rooskies were trumpeting their achievements while it was happening. The Lunokhod transmitted images of the tracks it left on the moon. It could do 1.25 mph.
During the 1960s, the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a feverish competition to be the first to set foot on the moon. We know who won this race, but less about a secret chapter. The Soviets many not have sent a man to the moon, but they successfully guided two small robots by remote control from the earth. For 16 months between 1970 and 1973, these "Lunokhods" traveled more than thirty miles over the moon's surface. With the declassification of the former USSR space archives, along with recollections by several of the key participants in the Lunokhod program, the true story of the Russian lunar robots can finally be told.