Image of Ranger 3 spacecraft
NASA/Space Science Data Center
The seven Ranger missions of the early 1960's were the first U.S. attempt to obtain close-up 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 in 1964 and 1965 were successful, each returning thousands of photographs of the lunar surface during their last few minutes of flight. 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.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
on science education, ranging from evolution
, classroom research
, and the need for science and math literacy
You might also be interested in:
The Surveyor missions of 1966 through 1968 were the next step in space travel to the Moon, following the Ranger missions. Their goal was to perform "soft" landings on the lunar surface, meaning that the...more
The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was one of the most important exploration tools of the past two decades, and will continue to serve as a great resource well into the new millennium. The HST is credited...more
Driven by a recent surge in space research, the Apollo program hoped to add to the accomplishments of the Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor missions of the late 1960's. Apollo 11 was the first mission to succeed...more
Apollo 12 survived a lightning strike during its launch on Nov. 14, 1969, and arrived at the Moon three days later. Astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean descended to the surface, while Richard Gordon...more
Apollo 15 marked the start of a new series of missions from the Apollo space program, each capable of exploring more lunar terrain than ever before. Launched on July 26, 1971, Apollo 15 reached the Moon...more
NASA chose Deep Impact to be part of a special series called the Discovery Program on July 7, 1999. In May 2001, Deep Impact was given the "go" from NASA to start with mission development. Deep Impact...more
The Galileo spacecraft was launched on October 19, 1989. Galileo had two parts: an orbiter and a descent probe that parachuted into Jupiter's atmosphere. Galileo's primary mission was to explore the Jovian...more