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Surveyor Program

the first spacecraft to make a soft landing on the Moon

Initially intended to be a series of robotic scientific missions, Surveyor's focus was switched to engineering in support of the Apollo program to land men on the Moon. The Surveyors tested landing techniques designed to take American astronauts safely to the Moon's surface.

The first Surveyor was launched from Cape Canaveral on May 30, 1966, and landed on the Moon on June 2, becoming the first spacecraft to make a survivable "soft" landing beyond the Earth. Surveyor 7, the last in the series, was launched on January 7, 1968. Although one Surveyor crashed into the Moon and another lost contact with Earth soon after lunar impact, the program acquired almost 90,000 images from five sites. These images would be invaluable to NASA in helping to determine the best locations for manned missions to the Moon.

model of the Surveyor

Spacecraft Specifications

Mass at Launch 2,194-2,888 pounds
Mass at Landing 596-625 pounds
Height ~10 feet
Diameter 14 feet

Instrumentation

All contained television cameras. Some had other tools and instruments to study lunar soil consistency and composition.

Missions

  Launch Date Landing Site Notes
Surveyor 1 May 30, 1966 Ocean of Storms sent 11,240 pictures, revealing details as small as 1/12th inch; operated until January 7, 1967
Surveyor 2 September 20, 1966   crashed into the Moon three days after launch
Surveyor 3 April 17, 1967 Ocean of Storms carried a soil mechanics surface sampler scoop; operated until May 4, 1967
Surveyor 4 July 14, 1967 Sinus Medii signal lost 2-1/2 minutes after lunar impact
Surveyor 5 September 8, 1967 Sea of Tranquility had magnets attached to the footpads and an alpha scattering instrument for chemical analysis of the lunar material; operated until December 17, 1967
Surveyor 6 November 7, 1967 Sinus Medii had magnets attached to the footpads and an alpha scattering instrument for chemical analysis of the lunar material; operated until December 14, 1967; the first spacecraft to lift off from the Moon
Surveyor 7 January 7, 1968 Tycho North Rim had magnets attached to the footpads, as well as an alpha scattering instrument for chemical analysis of the lunar material and a soil mechanics surface sampler scoop; operated until February 21, 1968

Surveyor 1 casts its shadow on the Moon.
Surveyor 1

A two-picture composite shows a 500-foot mountain range (part of the rim of the ancient crater in which the craft landed) 12 miles northeast of Surveyor 1.
picture taken by Surveyor 1

A medium-sized crater as photographedby Surveyor 1.
Surveyor 1 photograph

Moon particles as small as 1/50 of an inch across can be seen in this Surveyor 1 picture of its crushable aluminum footpad digging into the lunar surface.
Surveyor 1

Surveyor 3 participated in the only lunar surface rendezvous when the Apollo 12 astronauts landed nearby in November 1969. The human crew visited the 2-1/2-year-old lunar station, photographed it and the site, and brought some of its parts back to Earth. The first photograph below was taken by that crew (the descriptions were added later). The second photo shows an imprint left by one of Surveyor's footpads when the probe "bounced" on the Moon's surface during landing (as seen by Apollo 12).

Surveyor 3

Surveyor 3

Surveyor 5 placed an alpha scattering instrument on the Moon's surface on September 10, 1967. The instrument allowed scientists to conduct a chemical analysis of the lunar soil.

Surveyor 5

SOURCE
National Space Science Data Center nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/surveyor.html

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This page was last updated on 05/25/2017.