Softlanders and orbiters

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The far better success rate of the more ambitious Surveyors and Lunar Orbiters shows how much NASA learned during the early 1960s. The Surveyors were solar batteries solar panel

RANGER CRASH-LANDER

Ranger was the first NASA spaceprobe to be stabilized on oil three axes, instead of spinning to remain stable. This was achieved by importing small amounts of thrust from nitrogen gas jets. This allowed the use of large flat solar panels tilted toward the Sun, insteod of the earlier spinning drum design, and produced a large increase in electrical power to the probe.

When Ranger 7's cameras were activated during its final approach to the Moon, they returned this image - the first picture of the Moon from a US spacecraft.

From an altitude of 1,335km (829 miles), just over eight minutes from impact, Ranger 7 returned this image of Guericke, a battered impact crater 63km (39 miles) across.

Ranger 9-24 March 1965

Television audiences received live pictures as Ranger 9 plunged into the crater Alphonsus. From 650km (400 miles) up, lava channels were clearly visible on the crater floor.

Ranger 7-31 July 1964

When Ranger 7's cameras were activated during its final approach to the Moon, they returned this image - the first picture of the Moon from a US spacecraft.

Ranger 7-31 July 1964

From an altitude of 1,335km (829 miles), just over eight minutes from impact, Ranger 7 returned this image of Guericke, a battered impact crater 63km (39 miles) across.

Ranger 9-24 March 1965

Television audiences received live pictures as Ranger 9 plunged into the crater Alphonsus. From 650km (400 miles) up, lava channels were clearly visible on the crater floor.

EARTH FROM THE MOON

On 23 August 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1 sent bock this "first take" of an iconic image - Eorthrise over the Moon. In fact, this is Earthset - the spacecraft, on its 16th orbit, was just about to pass behind the lunar far side, out of sight of the Earth.

TECHNOLOGY

RETRO-ROCKETS

VISITORS FROM EARTH

In November 1969, the astronauts of Apollo 12 landed within walking distance of Surveyor 3 in the Sea of Storms and inspected it to see how it had fared during 30 months on the Moon.

A retro-rocket is an engine attached to a spacecraft that provides a retrograde (decelerating) force when fired. The most familiar use of retro-rockets is during descent to the surface of a planet or a moon. Parachutes of a reasonable size can only slow an object's descent by a certain amount, and require a substantial atmosphere to generate drag, so retro-rockets are a necessity for soft landing on an airless body such as the Moon. The other main use of retro-rockets (as on the Lunar Orbiter, right) is to modify a spacecraft's trajectory - perhaps slowing it down so that, instead of flying past a body at high speed, it is caught up by its gravity and pulled into orbit, or slowing it further, so that it drops out of orbit towards a landing site.

retro-rocket

TECHNOLOGY

RETRO-ROCKETS

designed to make soft landings in targeted areas of the Moon and send back data about lunar conditions. Surveyor 1 touched down in the Sea of Storms on 2 June 1966. To everyone's relief, it did not sink without trace, but instead sent back images and data about the Moon's surface chemistry. Six more Surveyors followed over the next 20 months, with only two failures - Surveyors 2 and 4, both of which crash-landed.

In parallel with the Surveyors, NASA launched a series of five Lunar Orbiters, spacecraft that would become satellites of Earth's own satellite. Placed in different orbits around the Moon, the first three concentrated on imaging possible landing sites for the Apollo missions, while the last two completed a broader scientific survey that saw 99 per cent of the Moon's surface, on both near and far sides, mapped at relatively high resolution.

VISITORS FROM EARTH

In November 1969, the astronauts of Apollo 12 landed within walking distance of Surveyor 3 in the Sea of Storms and inspected it to see how it had fared during 30 months on the Moon.

A retro-rocket is an engine attached to a spacecraft that provides a retrograde (decelerating) force when fired. The most familiar use of retro-rockets is during descent to the surface of a planet or a moon. Parachutes of a reasonable size can only slow an object's descent by a certain amount, and require a substantial atmosphere to generate drag, so retro-rockets are a necessity for soft landing on an airless body such as the Moon. The other main use of retro-rockets (as on the Lunar Orbiter, right) is to modify a spacecraft's trajectory - perhaps slowing it down so that, instead of flying past a body at high speed, it is caught up by its gravity and pulled into orbit, or slowing it further, so that it drops out of orbit towards a landing site.

retro-rocket

EARTH FROM THE MOON

On 23 August 1966, Lunar Orbiter 1 sent bock this "first take" of an iconic image - Eorthrise over the Moon. In fact, this is Earthset - the spacecraft, on its 16th orbit, was just about to pass behind the lunar far side, out of sight of the Earth.

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Gemini 9

Gemini 10

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