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Ranger to the Moon (1964 - 1965)

Courtesy of NASA's Space Science Data Center


The Ranger series was the first U.S. attempt to obtain close-up images of the lunar surface. The Ranger spacecraft were designed to fly straight down towards the Moon and send images back until the moment of impact. Ranger 7 impacted in mare terrain modified by crater rays. Ranger 8 also impacted in mare terrain, but this area contained a complex system of ridges. Ranger 9 impacted in a large crater in the lunar highlands.

Each Ranger spacecraft had 6 cameras on board. The cameras were fundamentally the same with differences in exposure times, fields of view, lenses, and scan rates. The camera system was divided into two channels, P (partial) and F (full). Each channel was self-contained with separate power supplies, timers, and transmitters. The F-channel had 2 cameras: the wide-angle A-camera and the narrow angle B-camera. The P-channel had four cameras: P1 and P2 (narrow angle) and P3 and P4 (wide angle). The final F-channel image was taken between 2.5 and 5 seconds before impact (altitude about 5 kilometers or 3 miles) and the last P-channel image 0.2 to 0.4 seconds before impact (altitude about 600 meters or 1,970 feet). The images provided better resolution than was available from Earth based views by a factor of 1000. These highly detailed images showed Apollo planners that finding a smooth landing site was not going to be easy.


Ranger 7

Launched: 28 July 1964
Impacted Moon: 31 July 1964 at 13:25:49 UT
Location: Latitude 10.35 S, Longitude 339.42 E - Mare Cognitum (Sea of Clouds)

Ranger 8

Launched: 17 February 1965
Impacted Moon: 20 February 1965 at 09:57:37 UT
Location: Latitude 2.67 N, Longitude 24.65 E - Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility)

Ranger 9

Launched: 21 March 1965
Impacted Moon: 24 March 1965 at 14:08:20 UT
Location: Latitude 12.83 S, Longitude 357.63 E - Alphonsus

Views of Ranger

Rangers 3 - 5
This image shows the Ranger spacecraft 3 through 5 that were used to obtain close-up images of the moon. Ranger 3 was launched on January 26, 1962, but missed the moon. Ranger 4 was launched on April 23, 1962, and became the first US spacecraft to impact on the moon. Ranger 5 was launched on October 18, 1962. It was intended to impact but became a fly-by because of a spacecraft failure.

Ranger 7
This is an image of the Ranger 7 spacecraft that was launched on July 28, 1964. It arrived at the Moon on July 31, 1964. The spacecraft carried six television cameras. It sent back high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface until its impact in an area between Mare Nubium and Mare Cognitum.


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