July 31, 1964: Ranger 7 crashes. The Ranger program was part of the US unmanned space exploration with the objective of obtaining close-up pictures of the Moon. They were to take pictures of the satellite as they descended and transmit them back to Earth. They were not meant to survive impact with the Moon. There was a series of mistakes and the first six missions were failures. At one point, the program was called “shoot and hope” and Congress eventually led an investigation into NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory looking for problems with management. Finally, the seventh mission was able to hit the target.
NASA launched the 806 pound spacecraft on July 28, 1964 via an Atlas LV-3 Agena-B rocket from Cape Canaveral launch pad 12. Built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Ranger 7 had six television vidicon cameras aboard. There were two wide-angle and four narrow-angle cameras arranged on two separate chains or channels. Each camera was self-contained and had separate power supplies, timers, and transmitters. With this redundancy, it was hoped that high-quality video pictures could finally be received. The flight from Earth to the Moon took 68.6 hours. In the final 17 minutes of the flight, 4,300 photographs were taken and transmitted back home. The spacecraft crash landed between Mare Nubium and Oceanus Procellarum.
The Ranger program consisted of three different Blocks. Both of the Block 1 missions (Ranger 1 and 2) had issues right from the start as both failed to launch properly. Block 2 (Ranger 3, 4, and 5) were all launched in 1962 and cleared the launch but two of them missed hitting the Moon while Ranger 4 had mechanical issues which kept it from sending back any useful information. Block 3, (Ranger 6, 7, 8, and 9) finally saw success. Ranger 6 had camera failures but the final three tries were able to send back the information sought. This first successful picture of the Moon was 1000 times more clear than any pictures able to be obtained from Earth.
Ranger 7’s crash landing site was later name Mare Cognitum. The impact made when the ship hit the Moon at a speed of 1.62 miles per second lies in the second ring of Oceanus Procellarum. Several other spacecraft have landed near the same place. Ranger 7’s pictures exceeded expectations and no other experiments were to be performed. During this mission, a NASA tradition began. After six failures, hopes were not high for this seventh try. But after the stunning pictures returned, it was noticed that someone had been eating peanuts and the “peanut” tradition began. All control rooms now ceremoniously open a container of peanuts for luck.
What do you think of the foremost philosophers of this University? In spite of my oft-repeated efforts and invitations, they have refused, with the obstinacy of a glutted adder, to look at the planets or Moon or my telescope. – Galileo Galilei
The greatest fallout of the space program, … was not the close-up view of the moon, but a look at spaceship Earth from afar. For the first time in the history of humanity, we were able to see our planet for what it really is. – Theodore Hesburgh
How do you expect to get us to the Moon if you people can’t even hook us up with a ground station? – Gus Grissom
A country so rich that it can send people to the moon still has hundreds of thousands of its citizens who can’t read. That’s terribly troubling to me. – Charles Kuralt
Also on this day: Mount Fuji – In 781, Mount Fuji erupted for the first time in recorded history.
Who Knows? – In 1930, The Shadow came to radio.
First US Patent – In 1790, the first US patent was granted.
All Wet All-Stars – In 1961, the baseball game ended in a tie.
Daniel Defoe – In 1703, the author was placed in the pillory.