Image of Lunar Orbiter spacecraft
NASA/National Space Science Data Center
During 1966 through 1967, five identical Lunar Orbiter spacecrafts were launched, with the purpose of mapping the Moon's surface and finding smooth, level terrain, in preparation for the Apollo and Surveyor landings.
All five missions were successful. The first three Lunar Orbiters were mostly dedicated to obtaining detailed, high-resolution photographs of 20 areas on the Moon's nearside, preselected as possible future landing sites. Lunar Orbiters 4 and 5 concentrated on more general mapping, covering 99% of the lunar surface including most of the farside. Also, much was learned about the Moon's gravitational field.
After orbiting the Moon and returning hundreds of photographs, each Lunar Orbiter spacecraft was commanded to crash into the surface, destroying itself.
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