Trivia

Hard

Which Space Probe First Successfully Transmitted Photos Of The Lunar Surface?

Mariner 10
Ranger 7
Lunar 16
Giotto
A photo of what the Ranger fleet of spacecraft looked like.
NASA/Wikimedia

Answer: Ranger 7

These days, with advanced technology like the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, we take high-resolution photographs and breathtaking videos of the Moon for granted. A little over half a century ago, however, we still hadn’t managed to get an intimate and up-close photograph of the Moon. But all of that changed in the mid 1960s.

In July of 1964, NASA launched Ranger 7 aboard an Atlas LV-3 Agena-B rocket. Ranger 7 was a lunar probe with a singular mission, and for three days it went rocketing through space towards the Moon, waiting to spring into action. As Ranger 7 neared the Moon on July 31, 1964, the six television vidicon cameras (two wide-angle and four narrow-angle) on board set to work capturing and transmitting images back to Earth, relaying images up until the moment of impact. You can view some of those photos here.

Ranger 7 was followed by Ranger 8 and Ranger 9. The total cache of images from the three successful probe missions provided over 17,000 photographs with a resolution and clarity previously unseen.

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