Ranger Missions to the Moon

    Ranger 1, 2 Ranger 3,4,5 Ranger 6, 7, 8, 9

    The Ranger program was a series of unmanned space missions by the United States in the 1960s whose objective was to obtain the first close-up images of the surface of the Moon. The Ranger spacecraft were designed to collide with the lunar surface, returning imagery until they were destroyed upon impact.

    Ranger was originally designed, beginning in 1959, in three distinct phases, called "blocks". Each block had different mission objectives and progressively more advanced system design. The JPL mission designers planned multiple launches in each block, to maximize the engineering experience and scientific value of the mission and to assure at least one successful flight. Total research, development, launch, and support costs for the Ranger series of spacecraft (Rangers 1 through 9) was approximately $170 million.

    Ranger 1

    Failed Earth-orbit test vehicle (USA)
    Launched: August 23, 1961
    Ranger 1 was the first US spacecraft designed to test the feasibility of going into a parking orbit around Earth before heading out to the Moon. A parking orbit would give engineers time to calculate a much more accurate trajectory for the spacecraft to follow to the Moon. Ranger 1 made it into low Earth orbit. Its engines, which were supposed to re-ignite after 13 minutes and burn for 90 seconds, only burned for a few seconds and then shut off. The spacecraft eventually re-entered Earth's atmosphere after completing 111 orbits.

    Ranger 2

    Failed Earth-orbit test vehicle (USA)
    Launched: November 18, 1961
    Ranger 2, like Ranger 1, was designed as a test vehicle. The spacecraft's engines failed to re-ignite after the spacecraft entered a low Earth orbit. The spacecraft burned up in Earth's atmosphere just two days after launch.

    Ranger 3

    Failed lunar lander (USA)
    Launched: January. 26, 1962
    Designed to take close-up images of the Moon before impacting with its surface, Ranger 3 missed the Moon and ended up in a solar orbit.

    Ranger 4

    Failed lunar lander (USA)
    Launched: April 23, 1962
    Lunar impact: April 26, 1962
    After a successful launch, a failure of some sort onboard Ranger 4 made communication with the spacecraft impossible. Engineers were able to track the spacecraft until it crashed on the far side of the Moon, but were unable to collect any data.

    Ranger 5

    Failed lunar Lander (USA)
    Launched: October 18, 1962
    A solar cell onboard Ranger 5 failed shortly after launch. Without power, engineers on the ground were unable to control the spacecraft and Ranger 5 missed the Moon by 720 kilometers (450 miles).

    Ranger 6

    Failed lunar impactor (USA)
    Launched: January 30, 1964
    Moon impact: February 2, 1964.
    Ranger 6 was designed to take a series of images as it approached the Moon, right up to the point where it crashed into its surface. Unfortunately, the spacecraft's cameras failed and no pictures were returned. Ranger 6 crash-landed in the Sea of Tranquility.

    Ranger 7

    Successful lunar impactor (USA)
    Launched: July 28, 1964
    Moon impact: July 31, 1964
    Ranger 7 sent back the first high-quality images of the lunar surface before it crash-landed in the Sea of Clouds. Over 4,300 images were sent back.

    Ranger 8

    Successful lunar impactor (USA)
    Launched: February 17, 1965
    Moon impact: February 20, 1965.
    Ranger 8 took over 7,100 high quality images of the lunar surface before it crash-landed in the Sea of Tranquility.

    Ranger 9

    Successful lunar impactor (USA)
    Launched: March 21, 1965
    Ranger 9 took over 5,800 images of the lunar surface before it crash-landed in the crater Alphonsus. Network television broadcasted images from the spacecraft as they were received - live from the Moon!

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