This model of the Lunar Orbiter was an early rendition of what the spacecraft might look like. The actual spacecraft, looking somewhat different, was built in the 1960s and mapped the Moon in preparation for the Apollo landings. It was built for NASA's Langley Research Center by Boeing and launched to the Moon on an Atlas-Agena rocket. A total of five Lunar Orbiters were flown to the Moon. The first three orbited around the Moon's equator and provided detailed photographic coverage of the primary Apollo landing sites, including stereo images. Because of the success of these earlier missions, the final two Lunar Orbiters were placed into a polar orbit so that virtually the entire surface of the Moon was mapped.
In addition to images of the Apollo landing sites, Lunar Orbiter provided many breathtaking photographs, including features on the farside. An oblique view of the crater Copernicus taken by Lunar Orbiter II (frame H-164) was dubbed the "Picture of the Century" by the news media.
Transferred from NASA - Langley Research Center to the Museum in 1974.
Transferred from NASA - Langley Research Center
The Lunar Orbiter project was designed to accurately map the lunar surface (down to one-meter resolution). The program's primary goal was to allow mission planners to select the safest, but most scientifically interesting landing sites for the Apollo missions. The project was managed by NASA's Langley Research Center. Each Lunar Orbiter weighed about 380 kilograms and was launched by the Atlas Agena D rocket. Each carried an imaging system that could develop exposed film, scan the photos, and broadcast them back to Earth. Five Lunar Orbiters were launched between August 1966 and August 1967. All were highly successful, and in total, mapped roughly 99 percent of the lunar surface. Lunar Orbiter 1 became the first spacecraft to take a picture of the Earth from the Moon. While the first three orbiters mapped potential Apollo landing sites, the last two conducted more general scientific surveys and also mapped the lunar gravitational field.