Ranger Spacecraft Exploration

Ranger 9 was a Lunar probe, launched in 1965 by NASA. It was designed to achieve a lunar impact trajectory and to transmit high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface during the final minutes of flight up to impact. The spacecraft carried six television vidicon cameras - two wide-angle and four narrow-angle - to accomplish these objectives. The cameras were arranged in two separate chains, or channels, each self-contained with separate power supplies, timers, and transmitters so as to afford the greatest reliability and probability of obtaining high-quality television pictures. These images were broadcast live on television to millions of viewers across the United States.

Each Ranger spacecraft had 6 cameras on board. The cameras were fundamentally the same with differences in exposure times, fields of view, lenses, and scan rates. The camera system was divided into two channels, P (partial) and F (full). Each channel was self-contained with separate power supplies, timers, and transmitters. The F-channel had 2 cameras: the wide-angle A-camera and the narrow angle B-camera. The P-channel had four cameras: P1 and P2 (narrow angle) and P3 and P4 (wide angle). The final F-channel image was taken between 2.5 and 5 sec before impact (altitude about 5 km) and the last P-channel image 0.2 to 0.4 sec before impact (altitude about 600 m). The images provided better resolution than was available from Earth based views by a factor of 1000. These highly detailed images showed Apollo planners that finding a smooth landing site was not going to be easy.

Ranger (1961 - 1965) The Ranger series was the first U.S. attempt to obtain close-up images of the Lunar surface. The Ranger spacecraft were designed to fly straight down towards the Moon and send images back until the moment of impact. Shown below is the Ranger spacecraft and an image of the Moon taken by the Ranger 7 A series camera immediately before impact. This image has a resolution of .5 meters. Ranger 7 impacted in mare terrain modified by crater rays. Ranger 8 also impacted in mare terrain, but this area contained a complex system of ridges. Ranger 9 impacted in a large crater in the lunar highlands. Below is the first image of the Moon taken by Ranger 7, about 17 minutes before impact.

Read spacecraft name for detailed information on the spacecraft and mission.

Ranger 7 Launched 28 July 1964 Impacted Moon 31 July 1964 at 13:25:49 UT Latitude 10.70 S, Longitude 339.33 E - Mare Cognitum (Sea That Has Become Known) Ranger 7 Experiments and Data Ranger 7 images of the Moon

Ranger 8 Launched 17 February 1965 Impacted Moon 20 February 1965 at 09:57:37 UT Latitude 2.71 N, Longitude 24.81 E - Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility) Ranger 8 Experiments and Data Ranger 8 images of the Moon

Ranger 9 Launched 21 March 1965 Impacted Moon 24 March 1965 at 14:08:20 UT Latitude 12.91 S, Longitude 357.62 E - Alphonsus crater Ranger 9 Experiments and Data Ranger 9 images of the Moon

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