Ranger 7

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Ranger 7
Ranger 6
Mission type Lunar impactor
Operator NASA
COSPAR ID 1964-041A
SATCAT № 842
Mission duration 65.5 hours
Spacecraft properties
Manufacturer Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Launch mass 365.7 kilograms (806 lb)
Start of mission
Launch date July 28, 1964, 16:50:00 (1964-07-28UTC16:50Z) UTC
Rocket Atlas LV-3 Agena-B
Launch site Cape Canaveral LC-12
Lunar impactor
Impact date July 31, 1964, 13:25:48.82 (1964-07-31UTC13:25:49Z) UTC
Impact site 10°38′02″S 20°40′38″W / 10.6340°S 20.6771°W / -10.6340; -20.6771[1]
First image of the Moon taken by a US spacecraft. The large crater at center right is Alphonsus
Last picture by Ranger 7, taken about 488 m above the Moon, reveals features as small as 38 cm across. The noise pattern at right results from spacecraft impact while transmitting.

Ranger 7 was the first US space probe to successfully transmit close images of the lunar surface back to Earth. It was also the first completely successful flight of the Ranger program. Launched on July 28, 1964, Ranger 7 was designed to achieve a lunar-impact trajectory and to transmit high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface during the final minutes of flight up to impact. The spacecraft carried six television vidicon cameras - two wide-angle (channel F, cameras A and B) and four narrow-angle (channel P) - to accomplish these objectives. The cameras were arranged in two separate chains, or channels, each self-contained with separate power supplies, timers, and transmitters so as to afford the greatest reliability and probability of obtaining high-quality video pictures. Ranger 7 transmitted over 4,300 photographs during the final 17 minutes of its flight. After 68.6 hours of flight, the spacecraft landed between Mare Nubium and Oceanus Procellarum. This landing site was later named Mare Cognitum. The velocity at impact was 1.62 miles per second, and the performance of the spacecraft exceeded hopes.[2] No other experiments were carried on the spacecraft.[3]

Spacecraft design[edit]

Rangers 6, 7, 8, and 9 were called Block 3 versions of the Ranger spacecraft. The spacecraft consisted of a hexagonal aluminum frame base 1.5 m across on which was mounted the propulsion and power units, topped by a truncated conical tower which held the TV cameras. Two solar panel wings, each 739 mm wide by 1537 mm long, extended from opposite edges of the base with a full span of 4.6 m, and a pointable high-gain dish antenna was hinge mounted at one of the corners of the base away from the solar panels. A cylindrical quasi-omnidirectional antenna was seated on top of the conical tower. The overall height of the spacecraft was 3.6 m.[3]

Propulsion for the mid-course trajectory correction was provided by a 224 N thrust monopropellant hydrazine engine with four jet-vane vector control. Orientation and attitude control about three axes was enabled by twelve nitrogen gas jets coupled to a system of three gyros, four primary Sun sensors, two secondary Sun sensors, and an Earth sensor. Power was supplied by 9,792 silicon solar cells contained in the two solar panels, giving a total array area of 2.3 square meters and producing 200 W. Two 1200 watt-hour AgZnO batteries rated at 26.5 V with a capacity for 9 hours of operation provided power to each of the separate communication/TV camera chains. Two 1000 watt-hour AgZnO batteries stored power for spacecraft operations.[3]

Communications were through the quasiomnidirectional low-gain antenna and the parabolic high-gain antenna. Transmitters aboard the spacecraft included a 60 W TV channel F at 959.52 MHz, a 60 W TV channel P at 960.05 MHz, and a 3 W transponder channel 8 at 960.58 MHz. The telecommunications equipment converted the composite video signal from the camera transmitters into an RF signal for subsequent transmission through the spacecraft high-gain antenna. Sufficient video bandwidth was provided to allow for rapid framing sequences of both narrow- and wide-angle television pictures.[3]

Mission profile[edit]

The Atlas 250D and Agena B 6009 boosters performed nominally at launch inserting the Agena and Ranger into a 192 km altitude Earth parking orbit. Half an hour after launch the second burn of the Agena engine injected the spacecraft into a lunar intercept trajectory. After separation from the Agena, the solar panels were deployed, attitude control activated, and spacecraft transmissions switched from the omniantenna to the high-gain antenna. The next day, 29 July, the planned mid-course maneuver was initiated at 10:27 UT, involving a short rocket burn. The only anomaly during flight was a brief loss of two-way lock on the spacecraft by the DSIF tracking station at Cape Kennedy following launch.[3]

Ranger 7 reached the Moon on 31 July. The F-channel began its one minute warm up 18 minutes before impact. The first image was taken at 13:08:45 UT at an altitude of 2110 km. Transmission of 4,308 photographs of excellent quality occurred over the final 17 minutes of flight. The final image taken before impact has a resolution of 0.5 meters. The spacecraft encountered the lunar surface in direct motion along a hyperbolic trajectory, with an incoming asymptotic direction at an angle of -5.57 degrees from the lunar equator. The orbit plane was inclined 26.84 degrees to the lunar equator. After 68.6 hours of flight, Ranger 7 impacted in an area between Mare Nubium and Oceanus Procellarum (subsequently named Mare Cognitum) at 10°38′02″S 20°40′38″W / 10.6340°S 20.6771°W / -10.6340; -20.6771.[1] (The impact site is listed as 10.63 S, 20.66 W in the initial report "Ranger 7 Photographs of the Moon".) Impact occurred at 13:25:48.82 UT at a velocity of 2.62 km/s. The spacecraft performance was excellent and the success of the mission finally brought a turnaround in NASA's fortunes after the endless string of lunar probe failures since 1958.[3]

Ranger 7 is credited for beginning the "peanut" tradition at NASA command stations. On the success of Ranger 7, someone in the control room was noticed eating peanuts - surely the reason the mission was successful. Since 1964 control rooms ceremonially open a container of peanuts for luck and tradition.[4]


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