The spacecraft was placed in an Earthparking orbit on August 10, 1966 at 19:31 (UTC). The trans-lunar injection burn occurred at 20:04 (UTC). The spacecraft experienced a temporary failure of the Canopus star tracker (probably due to stray sunlight) and overheating during its cruise to the Moon. The star tracker problem was resolved by navigating using the Moon as a reference, and the overheating was abated by orienting the spacecraft 36 degrees off-Sun to lower the temperature.
Lunar Orbiter 1 was injected into an elliptical near-equatorial lunar orbit 92.1 hours after launch. The initial orbit was 189.1 by 1,866.8 kilometres (117.5 mi × 1,160.0 mi) and had a period of 3 hours 37 minutes and an inclination of 12.2 degrees. On August 21, perilune was dropped to 58 kilometres (36 mi) and on August 25 to 40.5 kilometres (25.2 mi). The spacecraft acquired photographic data from August 18 to 29, 1966, and readout occurred through September 14, 1966.
A total of 42 high-resolution and 187 medium-resolution frames were taken and transmitted to Earth covering over 5 million square kilometers of the Moon's surface, accomplishing about 75% of the intended mission, although a number of the early high-resolution photos showed severe smearing. It also took the first two pictures of the Earth ever from the distance of the Moon. Accurate data were acquired from all other experiments throughout the mission.
Orbit tracking showed a slight "pear-shape" of the Moon based on the gravity field, and no micrometeorite impacts were detected. The spacecraft was tracked until it impacted the lunar surface on command at 7 degrees north latitude, 161 degrees east longitude (selenographic coordinates) on the Moon's far side on October 29, 1966 on its 577th orbit. The early end of the nominal one-year mission was due to the small amount of remaining attitude control gas and other deteriorating conditions and was planned to avoid transmission interference with Lunar Orbiter 2.
Lunar Photographic Studies
Evaluation of Apollo and Surveyor landing sites
Detection of micrometeoroids in the lunar environment
Caesium Iodide Dosimeters
Radiation environment en route to and near the Moon
Gravitational field and physical properties of the Moon
The first ever image of Earth from the distance of the Moon, August 23, 1966. This probe took a second such image on August 25.
Part of the photo to the left as reprocessed by LOIRP in 2008.
Payloads are separated by bullets ( · ), launches by pipes ( | ). Manned flights are indicated in bold text. Uncatalogued launch failures are listed in italics. Payloads deployed from other spacecraft are denoted in brackets.