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Surveyor Program

By Wikipedia,
the free encyclopedia,

Photograph of Surveyor 3 lunar landing spacecraft taken by Apollo 12 astronauts (descriptions added). (NASA)
Photograph of Surveyor 3 lunar landing spacecraft taken by Apollo 12 astronauts (descriptions added). (NASA)

The Surveyor Program was a NASA program that, from 1966 through 1968, sent seven robotic spacecraft to the surface of the Moon. Its primary goal was to demonstrate the feasibility of soft landings on the Moon. The program was implemented by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to prepare for the Apollo Program. The spacecraft are still on the Moon; none of the missions included returning them to Earth. Some parts of Surveyor 3 were returned to Earth by Apollo 12. The camera is on display at the National Air and Space Museum.


Surveyor 7 landing site landscape
Surveyor 7 landing site landscape

The program performed several other services beyond its primary goal of demonstrating soft landings. The ability of spacecraft to make midcourse corrections was demonstrated, and the landers carried instruments to help evaluate the suitability of their landing sites for manned Apollo landings. Several Surveyor spacecraft had robotic shovels designed to test lunar soil mechanics. Before this project, it was unknown how deep the dust on the Moon was. If the dust was too deep, then no astronaut could land. The Surveyor program proved that landings were possible. Some of the Surveyors also had alpha scattering instruments and magnets, which helped determine the chemical composition of the soil.


Location of Surveyor missions on the Moon
Location of Surveyor missions on the Moon

There were seven Surveyor missions; five were successful. Surveyors 2 and 4 failed. Each consisted of a single unmanned spacecraft designed and built by Hughes Aircraft Company.

Surveyor 6 was the first spacecraft to lift off from the Moon's surface, and Apollo 12 landed within walking distance of the Surveyor 3 landing site.

Space Race competition

During the time of the Surveyor missions, the United States was actively involved in a Space Race with the Soviet Union. Thus the Surveyor 1 landing in June 1966, only four months after the Soviet Luna 9 probe landed in February, was an indication the programs were at similar stages.

External links

See also

Text from Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License; additional terms may apply.

Published in July 2009.

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