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NASA FACTS Project Ranger

NASA FACTS Project Ranger

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Published by Bob Andrepont
NASA Facts booklet on Ranger
NASA Facts booklet on Ranger

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Published by: Bob Andrepont on Dec 03, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/01/2012

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Page
1
A
An Educational Services Publication of the
Vol.
I!,
No.
6
Rev
3-65
National Aersnautics and Space Administralion
I
i
I
Source of Acquisition
Ranger plummets towards the moon. Broken arrow indicates flight path (artist's sketch).
Before man can journey safely to the moon,he must acquire information that has defiedcenturies of observation. An important steptoward meeting this requirement
is
NASA'sProject Ranger which has given man a closer lookever before at the moon.Knowledge of the moon has been basedlargely on observations through telescopes onearth. This knowledge is seriously limited bythe moon's great distance from earth and byearth's atmosphere, which veils or distorts lunarimages. The resolution, or ability to distinguishobjects, of earth's most powerful telescopes per-mits man to detect lunar obiects no smaller thana half mile in size. Ranger
VII,
telecast picturesto earth that revealed lunar features as small as
15
inches across on July
31,
1964,
before itcrashed into the northwest corner of MareNubium-the Sea of Clouds. The InternationalAstronomical Union subsequently designated this
 
Page
2
area "Mare Cognitum." Ranger Vlll sent close-up photographs of additicnal areas before it
1
hed into the western part of Mare Tranquilli-
u
tis-the Sea of Tranquility-on February 20,1965. Ranger
IX
transmitted close-range photo-graphs of the crater Alphonsus on March 24,1965 before it crashed into the crater.
OPENS NEW ERA
IN
LUNAR ASTRONOMY
Although relatively near earth as compared toother celestial bodies, the moon is fundamentallystill a scientific mystery. Astronomers havemapped the moon's visible face and have namedits perceptible craters, mountains, valleys, andplains. But, unable to discern the fine detailsof the lunar surface, they debate its structure andstrength.As a result, engineers designing the landinggear for the Surveyor soft-landing spacecraftand the Apollo section that American explorerswill land on the moon's surface (the section
is
rglled the Lunar Excursion Module, or LEM) areIncerned whether a landing site that appearsfrom earth to be smooth and firm
is
actually so.They ask whether it could be a vast dust bowlcapable of engulfing a spacecraft. They wonderwhether it
is
strewn with boulders or pitted withcraters too small to be seen from earth.Ranger opened a new era in lunar astronomyby sending pictures of the moon showing features2000 times smaller than previously detectablethrough earth based telescopes. Dr. Gerard
P.
Kuiper, who heads a team of scientific investi-gators studying the Ranger photographs, pre-sented an interim report on Ranger VII onAugust 28, 1964.Highlights of the report:
.
.
.
The seemingly smooth Sea of Clouds
is
dotted by thousands of small craters that do notshow up on photographs taken through tele-scopes on earth.
.
.
.
An outlying ray of the Crater Tycho
is
peppered with craters. Lunar rays appearugh earth telescopes as light streaks radiatingsome craters.
.
.
With the exception of several chunks ofmatter in one crater, no boulders were visible.
NASA FACTS Vol.
II,
No.
6
Photograph of moon (above) outlines aiming point area in
Sea
of Clouds where Ranger VII landed at
6:25:49
a.m.
EDT,
July
31.
Map (below photograph) shows targeted and actual impactpoints, which ore about
8
miles apart.
Also notable was the absence of fissures in thelunar surface.
.
.
.
Based on a study of pictures taken about1600 feet above the moon,
90
percent of theslopes of the lunar surface are calculated to bebetween one and fifteen degrees. This appearsto be more level than previously anticipated.
. .
.
While some areas are clearly unsafe forlanding, others are believed to be sufficientlylevel and smooth for touchdown by the ApolloLunar Excursion Module as presently designed;however, no knowledge of the surface strengthcould be obtained from the Ranger photographs.
 
NASA FACTS Voi.
II,
No.
6
RANGERS VII, Vlll and
IX
provided man-kind with close-up photographs of themoon. Ranger
IX
is
the last of theRanger series of spacecraft. Of earlierspacecraft in this series, Rangers
I
and
I1
were test vehicles not intended for lunarpicture taking; Rangers
111
and V imissedthe moon and soared into orbit around thesun; and Rangers IV and VI struck themoon but failed to send data.
Photo taken by Ranger
Vil
at 3000-foot altitude shows area
100
feet in each side.Note rounded shoulders of secondarycraters (see text).
. .
.
Most of the craters revealed for thefirst time by Ranger photographs are believedcaused by debris that was thrown up by colli-sions of meteoroids (random chunks of matterspeeding through space) with the moon. Themain crater created by the meteoroid impact hasbeen termed a primary crater. The debris fromthese primary craters may fly many miles beforelling back to the lunar surface. The craterssulting from matter thrown up by the impactthis debris are called secondary craters.There may also be craters created by matterthrown up from the secondary craters.
Page
3
.
. .
Primary craters may be identified bytheir sharply defined edges as contrasted withthe relatively rounded shoulders of the second-ary craters. The rounded instead of sharpedges are believed to be partly due to thelower impact velocities of the debris thrownfrom the larger primary craters.
.
. .
What appear to be lava flow lines arevisible. One lunar theory holds that somecraters are the remains of extinct volcanoes.For a long time, scientists believed that the moonhad no further volcanic activity., In recent years,however, astronomers on earth have observedthrough their telescopes what appear to be gas-eous emissions from the moon's interior.
. .
.
Erosion seems to be a significant forceon the moon despite the absence of wind andwater. It
is
theorized that incessant bombard-ment by meteoroids and by protons (particles ofatoms) emanating from the sun may have pul-verized the boulders, filled the fissures, andsmoothed the edges of the less sharp secondarycraters.Experimenters cautioned that the Rangerphotographs which cover a relatively small areaof the moon are not necessarily typical of themoon as a whole and they strongly emphasizedthat their findings are preliminary. They stressedthat the Ranger pictures are designed to ad-vance knowledge about the moon's topographyonly and that the Surveyor program
is
intendedto provide information about the strength, orhardness, of the moon's surface.Rangers VII, VIII, and
IX
sent back to earthabout
1
7,000
close-up photographs of the moonas they plummeted to the lunar surface.
It
isanticipated that these photographs will receiveclose attention and study by lunar scientiststhroughout the world for many years to come.
The
only other spacecraft to provide man withphotographs of the moon
is
the Soviet Lunik 3.In 1959, Lunik 3 took about 30 pictures of themoon's hidden side (see "The Moon," below)from distances of 4300 to 43,000 miles. Thepictures gave no fine detail, but did indicate thatpossibly the moon's hidden portion may not beas rugged as the area visible from earth.

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