Image of Ranger 3 spacecraft
NASA/Space Science Data Center
The goal of the seven Ranger missions during the early 1960's was to obtain the first close-up U.S. pictures of the Moon. Each spacecraft was to fly straight down to the Moon's surface and return photographs until being destroyed on impact.
Only the Ranger 7, 8, and 9 missions were successful, each returning thousands of photographs of the lunar surface. The photos were highly detailed, with resolution 1000 times better than that of Earth-based observations. Neither Ranger 3 or 5 were able to impact the Moon, while Rangers 4 and 6 reached its surface but didn't return any images.
The Ranger missions were useful for the planners of the Surveyor and Apollo programs, showing them that a safe landing site on the Moon would be hard to find.
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