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BLAZING A TRAIL FOR MAN TO FOLLOW
By the end of this decade, American astronautexplorers are scheduled t o land on the moon. Lunar Orbiter is one of three unmanned spacecraft programs undertaken t o help select sites for these manned landings and, at the same time, t o gather and report basic scientific data which cannot be obtained by observations from earth. The other two: Projects Ranger and Surveyor. The Lunar Orbiter project was managed by NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia, for the Office of Space Science and Applications, NASA Headquarters. Lunar Orbiter spacecraft were placed into relatively low orbits around the moon to take sharp close-up photographs of extensive areas. The photographs are primarily for use in selecting sites for manned landings and in increasing our scientific knowledge of the moon’s surface. In addition, the spacecraft are providing information about the moon’s size, shape, and gravitational field and about radiation and micrometeoroids (tiny particles of matter in space) in the moon’s vicinity. In a closely coordinated effort, NASA Surveyor spacecraft were soft-landed on the moon. As an example, Surveyor I which landed gently in the Ocean of Storms on June 2, 1966, transmitted pictures and other information about the lunar surface in its general vicinity. These were coordinated with the more extensive overhead views from Lunar Orbiter I launched August 10, 1966. Earlier,
1Close-up of part of t h e vast Crater Copernicus taken by the camera of Lunar Orbiter 1 1 . Mountains rise as high as 1000 feet f r o m the crater floor. Horizontal distance: about 17 miles. Distance from base of photograph t o horizon: about 150 miles.
Ranger spacecraft had provided our first closeups of selected lunar areas before crashing as intended on the moon. The Ranger program was completed in 1965.
VOYAGE TO THE MOON
A typical Lunar Orbiter voyage t o the moon starts at Cape Kennedy, Fla. The spacecraft i s mounted inside of a shroud (nose cone) on top of the 90foot-high two-stage Atlas-Agena launch vehicle. The shroud protects the spacecraft against damage from wind buffeting and other hazards during launch. The Atlas ignites and boosts the spacecraft through the thicker parts of earth’s atmosphere. After a little more than five minutes, the Atlas stops firing and shortly afterward detaches itself and falls back to earth. Seconds later, the protective shroud is thrown off. About 50 seconds after Atlas separation, the second stage Agena engine ignites briefly to place itself and the spacecraft into a parking (temporary) orbit about 100 miles above the earth. The combined vehicles coast in orbit until reaching the best point for launch to the moon. At this point, the Agena’s engine fires a second time, accelerating the vehicles from 17,500 (orbital velocity) t o about 24,500 miles per hour (escape velocity, i.e., the speed needed to pull away from the earth). Its job done, Agena stops firing, separates from Lunar Orbiter, and uses small gas jets to move out of the spacecraft’s vicinity. This event occurs about 40 minutes after lift-off. A few minutes later, Orbiter extends its broad solar panels that convert sunlight t o electrical power, and its radio antennas for communication with earth. The panels lock on the sun. About 11/2 hours later, the final delicate orientation maneuver is conducted. Orbiter locks on Canopus, the brightest star in the Southern Hemisphere. By orienting itself on these reference points, Orbiter remains in a position known to controllers on earth. The controllers must know the spacecraft’s orientation to send proper commands for maneuvers. Ground personnel carefully analyze tracking data from the spacecraft to determine whether the spacecraft will reach the planned aim point near the moon. If a slight path adjustment is indicated, they radio appropriate commands t o the spacecraft. Such commands call for the spacecraft t o position itself appropriately and then fire its rocket for a specified period at a certain time, usually
2 Lunar Orbiter I photograph of area where
Surveyor I landed. The area was shown by pictures from both spacecraft t o be relatively smooth. Center coordinates are 43" W. Longitude; 2 " 2 0 ' s . Latitude. Note mountains which appear as white areas at north (top).
3 Two pictures from Surveyor
I are pieced together. I n the background are crests of the mountains photographed by Lunar Orbiter I in another illustration on page 2.
large crater is superimposed on part of an older smaller crater in this Lunar Orbiter I photograph of the side of the moon never seen from earth. The larger crater is about 31 miles across.
5 Possible manned landing sites which Lunar
Orbiters I and II photographed at close range.
Lunar Orbiter I photographed earth when all but a crescent was in darkness. To an observer on the moon, the earth goes through phases as does the moon, viewed from earth. The phases in both cases are due to the positions of the earth and moon relative t o the sun as the moon revolves around the earth.
7 Typical Lunar Orbiter flight path from earth to
picture-taking orbit around the moon.
Atlas-Agena launches Lunar Orbiter I from Cape Kennedy, Florida, on August 10, 1966.
APOLUNE I150 ST M I ALTITUDE INJECTION I N T O PHOTOGRAPHIC
SEPARATE ATLAS A N D NOSF SHROUD
b t C O N D MIDCOURSE CORRFCTION
r l R S T MIDCOURSE CORRECTION
(INJECT I N T O PARKING ORRITI 7ND AGENA C O A 5 T IN PAIlKINC, O l l l l l T IGNITION I N T O IINJECT TRANSLUNAR
SOLAR P A N E L AND ANTENNA DEPLOYMENT
AGENA S E P A R A T I O N
about ten hours after launch, t o impart the required velocity change. (One or more mid-course ma neuvers of this type may be required to speed up or decelerate the spacecraft so that it reaches the target point near the moon.)
SATELLITE OF THE MOON
About three days after launch, the spacecraft arrives at the moon. Calculations are made as to the requirements for slowing the spacecraft so that it will orbit the moon rather than sweep by it and head more deeply into interplanetary space. Commands are sent from earth across almost a quarter million miles of space to Lunar Orbiter. The spacecraft reorients itself and fires its rocket. Lunar Orbiter’s speed is reduced from about 4500 miles per hour to about 2200 miles per hour. A t that speed, it is captured by lunar gravity and becomes a satellite of the moon. Its orbit ranges from an apolune (highest altitude) of about 1150 miles t o a perilune (lowest altitude) of about 1 2 0 miles. Engineers monitor the spacecraft’s performance and tracking data for several days while the spacecraft is in its initial orbit around the moon. They make plans for a maneuver to lower the spacecraft to its picture-taking orbit. After several days, the spacecraft is oriented precisely and its rocket is fired at the right time for a few seconds. The perilune is lowered t o less than 30 miles above the moon. (Lunar Orbiter I had a picture-taking perilune of about 24.7 miles.) After it takes and sends its photographs to earth, Lunar Orbiter may be thrust into new orbits t o continue its studies of micrometeoroids, radiation and the moon’s gravitational field.
SELF-CONTAINED CAMERA SYSTEM
Unlike Ranger and Surveyor which telecast pictures directly t o earth, Lunar Orbiter is an orbiting photographic laboratory. Its camera system, housed in a pressurized and temperature-controlled container, snaps pictures, develops film, and converts the images on the negatives into electrical signals for transmission to earth. The Lunar Orbiter camera system is designed to provide, from a 25-mile altitude, high-resolution photographs showing objects as small a s three feet across and medium-resolution photographs showing features as small as 27 feet across. The smallest objects on the moon that can be seen through telescopes on earth are about a half mile across. Moreover, the medium-resolution photographs of
the same general area may overlap oartially, permitting stereoscopic viewing that indicates slope of the surface. Such information is important because too steep a slope-even if the area is smoothcould overturn a landing spacecraft. The camera takes its high- and medium-resolution pictures simultaneously by means of a dual lens. The high-resolution image is centered within the area covered by the medium-resolution picture. (See sketch.) The camera is loaded with a 200-footlong roll of 70-mm film. A device called a velocityheight sensor provides information needed to compensate for the spacecraft's motion and prevent blurring. It does this by sending appropriate elec-
trical signals that regulate the movement of the film slightly during exposure. After exposure, the film i s brought in contact with a web-like material that has been soaked in developing solution. The processed film is later dried by passing it before a tiny electrical heater.
GETTING ORBITER'S PHOTOGRAPHS TO EARTH
Transferring the detailed photographs t o earth involves an exacting piecemeal process in which some 45 minutes are required for one high- and medium-resolution exposure. Key t o the process is an electronic device that projects an intense light beam about five microns (A micron i s .000039-
HIGH RESOLUTION PHOTO
aMEDIUM RESOLUTION PHOTO
9 Orbiter I photograph of rugged area just west
of Crater Landsberg. Area is 25 x 29 miles. Center coordinates: 30" 45' W. Longitude and 1 " 45' N. Latitude.
Lunar Orbiter I view of the moon's eastern limb (edge), which is the right side relative t o an observer on earth. This region is rarely seen from earth. Area covered: about 106 x 89 miles. Approximate location: 90" E. Longitude; 0" Latitude. appear as indicated i n sketch above.
11 Dual-frame photographs taken by Lunar Orbiter
inch.) in diameter. The tiny light spot travels back and forth across the one-tenth inch of film, making some 17,000 passes (scan lines) to read out the width of the film. The film is advanced after each scan, and the process repeated. The light beam passes through the negative onto a photomultiplier tube. This converts the light striking it into a varying electric current that corresponds t o the light and dark areas on the negative. For example, the darker areas of the negative reduce the amount of light that can pass through. The electrical current is then fed to an amplifier and t o the spacecraft's radio which transmits the information t o earth.
PICTURE SIGNALS PICKED UP AND PROCESSED ON EARTH
The 85-foot-diameter antennas of NASA's Deep Space Network keep in constant touch with Orbiter: commanding its maneuvers, monitoring its condition, tracking it, and acquiring its picture and other scientific data. The great antennas pick up the faint signals (down t o about a billionth watt of power) received from Lunar Orbiter and amplify them to useful strength. They relay the signals t o magnetic tape recorders and to kinescopes, which are somewhat like the picture tubes in home television sets.
12 An 85-foot diameter antenna at the Goldstone, California, Deep Space Network station.
13 Equipment a t Goldstone, California, for receiving
the pictures from Lunar Orbiter. Note camera, upper right, pointed at kinescope picture tube.
14 Naturally occurring protuberances cast long shadows across the moon's Sea of Tranquility in this Lunar Orbiter I I photograph taken shortly after local sunrise, when the sun was about 11" above the horizon. Reference marks (white crosses) are used for measurements and represent 25 feet on the moon's surface.
Cameras in front of the kinescopes photograph the images appearing on them. Each image initially recorded on Lunar Orbiter film one-tenth inch by 2.4 inches is enlarged t o three-quarter inch by 16% inches. The resulting photograph is called a framelet. A number of framelets, properly pieced together length-wise, makes up a photograph. Mediumresolution photographs are made up of about 26 framelets. High resolution pictures are made up of about 86 framelets. It takes approximately 295 weeks t o receive a l l of Lunar Orbiter's photographs a t stations on earth.
At launch, the 850-pound Lunar Orbiter is 5 feet in diameter and 51/2 feet long. In space, with its solar panels and radio antennas unfolded, the craft measures 12 feet 2 inches across the panels and l81/2 feet to the outer ends of its antennas. The spacecraft is structurally composed of two sections. One i s the main equipment mounting deck. This holds the camera system, radiation detectors, and electrical and electronic equipment such as communication and orientation devices. The other is called the upper module. It holds the propulsion equipment that enables controllers on earth to change the spacecraft's flight path. This equipment includes a 100-pound thrust liquidpropellant rocket engine, nitrogen gas jets for orientation changes, and storage tanks for propellants. The spacecraft has two kinds of radio antennas. One, looking like a dish, i s called a high-gain or
Lunar Orbiter is lowered into a space simulation chamber during tests preparing it for space flight.
Principal parts of Lunar Orbiter.
17 A large crater whose floor is nearly covered with a layer of dark material is prominent i n this Lunar Orbiter Ill photograph of the moon’s far side. Scientists believe that this dark material is pushed up from below the surface like lava from a volcano.
18 The Cordillera Mountain range forms a concave curve leading off the southwest part of the moon’s visible face. Sweeping around this area, Lunar Orbiter I V took a photograph showing that the mountains formed a vast ring around the 600-mile-diameter Orientale Basin. Within this ring are several smaller rings, giving the effect of a giant bulls-eye. The beautifully preserved texture of the surface and the sharpness of the mountain ranges suggest that this is a relatively young lunar feature.
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OMNl DIRECTIONAL ANTENNA SOLAR PANEL
directional antenna. It focusses radio signals for maximum intensity in a single direction. It is used primarily for sending picture signals. The other, shaped like a wand, is a low-gain or omnidirectional antenna. It sends radio signals in every direction; although it transmits a weaker signal, it can be received at any tracking station regardless of the orientation of Orbiter in space. The low-gain antenna is used for tracking, receiving commands, and equipment checks.
NASA Lunar Orbiter I, launched August 10, 1966, provided the first occasion in which photographic transmissions from a United States spacecraft were released to the public at Deep Space Network stations located at Robledo de Chavela (near Madrid), Spain; and Woomera, Australia. A third station is at Goldstone, California. Lunar Orbiter I is the first picture-taking spacecraft placed in orbit around a body other than earth. It is the first spacecraft to photograph the earth from the moon and t o take highly detailed photographs of the side of the moon perpetually hidden from earth. These gave mankind perspectives not available from earth.
19 Lunar Orbiter V snapped this photograph of
the Crater Tycho, located a t 1 1 " West Longitude and 43" South Latitude on the moon. Tycho is about 50 miles from rim t o rim. Note the central peak, a characteristic of many large lunar craters. While circling the moon, on August 8, 1967 Lunar Orbiter V snapped this first picture of a nearly full earth. Clearly visible are Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean area, and the Arabian Peninsula. A part o f the Indian Peninsula may be seen through the clouds which obscure much of Asia and the Indian Ocean.
21 The meandering Prinz Valleys I and II,
running downhill, are among the major features of this Lunar Orbiter V photograph of the moon's Harbinger Mountain area. Some scientists attribute these valleys t o volcanic eruptions and the flow of fluidal material. At left is Prinz Valley II, 8,000 feet wide at its head (below) and narrowing t o about 1,500 feet near its end. To its right is Prinz Valley I.
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