Section M 2.3.
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Ranger Missions Summary

Larry Klaes


RANGER 1 and 2 were test probes for the RANGER lunar impact series. They were meant for high Earth orbit testing in 1961, but rocket problems left them in useless low orbits which quickly decayed.

RANGER 3, launched on January 26, 1962, was intended to land an instrument capsule on the surface of the Moon, but problems during the launch caused the probe to miss the Moon and head into solar orbit. RANGER 3 did try to take some images of the Moon as it flew by, but the camera was unfortunately aimed at deep space during the attempt.

RANGER 4, launched April 23, 1962, had the same purpose as RANGER 3, but suffered technical problems enroute and crashed on the lunar farside, the first U.S. probe to reach the Moon, albeit without returning data.

RANGER 5, launched October 18, 1962 and similar to RANGER 3 and 4, lost all solar panel and battery power enroute and eventually missed the Moon and drifted off into solar orbit.

RANGER 6 through 9 had more modified lunar missions: They were to send back live images of the lunar surface as they headed towards an impact with the Moon. RANGER 6 failed this objective in 1964 when its cameras did not operate. RANGER 7 through 9 performed well, becoming the first U.S. lunar probes to return thousands of lunar images through 1965.


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