First Image of the Moon Taken by a U.S. Spacecraft
Ranger 7 took this image, the first picture of the moon by a U.S. spacecraft, on July 31, 1964 at 13:09 UT (9:09 AM EDT), about 17 minutes before impacting the lunar surface. The area photographed is centered at 13 S, 10 W and covers about 360 km from top to bottom. The large crater at center right is the 108 km diameter Alphonsus. Above it is Ptolemaeus and below it Arzachel. The terminator is at the bottom right corner. Mare Nubium is at center and left. North is at about 11:00 at the center of the frame. The Ranger 7 impact site is off the frame, to the left of the upper left corner.
The Ranger series of spacecraft were designed solely to take high-quality pictures of the moon and transmit them back to Earth in real time. The images were to be used for scientific study, as well as selecting landing sites for the Apollo moon missions. Ranger 7 was the first of the Ranger series to be entirely successful. It transmitted 4,308 high-quality images over the last 17 minutes of flight, the final image having a resolution of 0.5 meter/pixel.
Ranger 7 was launched July 28, 1964 and arrived at the moon on July 31, 1964.
> Moon Mission 50-Year Anniversary: A Vintage Look Back
Image Credit: NASA
Page Last Updated: July 31st, 2014
Page Editor: Sarah Loff