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Surveyor mission graphic

Surveyor 1-7

Phase: Past

Launch Date: May 29, 1966

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Following the Ranger missions, NASA's Surveyor program was designed to find a way to safely land on the Moon. After three practice missions, five of the seven Surveyor spacecraft made it to the Moon.

Initially intended to be a series of robotic scientific missions, the project'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 bring the American astronauts safely to the Moon. The Surveyors also took close-up images of the lunar surface and made other observations that helped pinpoint locations that would be safe for Apollo landings.

Surface view of the northern rim of Tycho

Surface view of the northern rim of Tycho

Surveyor 7 mosaic of the rim area of Tycho from the highland region north of the crater. Surveyor 7 landed 10 January 1969 at 40.88 S, 11.45 W and took about 21,000 photos over a month, some of which were used to make up this mosaic. The block in the foreground is about half a meter across and the crater is about 1.5 meters in diameter. The hills on the horizon are about 13 km away.

Surveyor 1 was the first spacecraft launched in the Surveyor program and the first soft landing on the Moon by the United States. The mission was considered a complete success and demonstrated the technology necessary to achieve landing and operations on the lunar surface. The primary objectives of the Surveyor program, a series of seven robotic lunar softlanding flights, were to support the coming crewed Apollo landings by: (1) developing and validating the technology for landing softly on the Moon; (2) providing data on the compatibility of the Apollo design with conditions encountered on the lunar surface; and (3) adding to the scientific knowledge of the Moon. The specific primary objectives for this mission were to: (1) demonstrate the capability of the Surveyor spacecraft to perform successful midcourse and terminal maneuvers, and to achieve a soft landing on the Moon; (2) demonstrate the capability of the Surveyor communications system and Deep Space Network to maintain communications with the spacecraft during its flight and after a soft landing; and (3) demonstrate the capability of the Atlas/Centaur launch vehicle to inject the Surveyor spacecraft on a lunar intercept trajectory. Secondary objectives were to obtain engineering data on spacecraft subsystems used during cruise, descent and after landing.

All the Surveyor spacecraft had television cameras and some had other tools and instruments to study lunar soil consistency and composition.