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Ranger 3 Information


Ranger Lunar Spacecraft

Ranger Lunar Spacecraft


Key Dates:

  • 01.26.62: Launch (20:30 UT)
  • 01.28.62: End of Mission
  • Status: In Heliocentric Orbit

Scientific Instruments:

  1. imaging system
  2. gamma-ray spectrometer
  3. single-axis seismometer
  4. surface-scanning pulse radio experiment

Ranger 3 Information:

As part of the pre-Apollo preparatins, NASA created the Ranger series of missions to take high-quality pictures of the Moon and transmit them back to Earth in real time. These images were not only to help select landing sites for future Apollo missions, they were also to be used for scientific study.

Each Ranger spacecraft was designed to make a "kazikaze" dive straight into the Moon and send close-range images back to Earth right up until they crashed into the surface. The cameras onboard each spacecraft were designed to provide different exposure times, fields of view, lenses, and scan rates, and they were arranged in two separate self-contained chains, each with its own power supply, timer, and transmitter.

With Ranger 3, NASA put its "kamikaze" program into effect, planning to make a hard landing the Moon. The goal was to deploy a small instrument package containing a seismometer on the lunar surface.

Like its predecessors, Ranger 3 also malfunctioned, this time in its guidance system. The spacecraft went hurtling past the Moon at a distance of 36,793 km (22,862 miles). Its speed was too high to allow it to enter lunar orbit. The spacecraft did provide the first measurements of interplanetary gamma-ray flux. Ranger 3 eventually settled into a heliocentric (sun-centered) orbit.

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