July 29, 2004

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Image Credit: E. A. Whitaker


Ewen Whitaker and Gerard Kuiper (in tie) looking at a photo of the landing site for Ranger 6, as the spacecraft sped towards the Moon on Feb 1, 1964. Ranger 6 hit the Moon the next day very near its target in western Mare Tranquilitatis. But as the solemn faces foretold, no photos were taken. Soon after launch the spacecraft had an electrical short circuit high in the Earth's atmosphere, incapacitating the cameras, and so Ranger 6 smashed blindly into the Moon. Oh, if it had worked! Ewen had been asked by Gene Shoemaker to select an interesting target to be imaged as the Ranger raced towards its planned crash landing. Ewen planned for it to start taking TV photos (which would have been radioed live to Earth) as the spacecraft came in over Copernicus and travelled east over Sinus Medii, past Agrippa and on to its final high resolution shots of Arago, its domes and the Sosigenes Rilles. The spacecraft worked flawlessly, except for the cameras, and hit the Moon within its target ellipse at 9.39N 21.51E. We almost had high resolution view of the Arago domes...

Chuck Wood

Technical Details:
This picture was taken at JPL and was apparently a JPL PR photo - on the back is this ID: P-2971A. Footnote: The globe in the background is now on the wall at Flandrau Planetarium in Tucson.

Related Links:
Ranger 6 at NSSDC
Lunar Impact -A History of the Ranger Project

Yesterday's LPOD: Cognitum Kipuka

Tomorrow's LPOD: Obliquely Viewed Fault

Author & Editor:
Charles A. Wood



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