Ranger Program / Agena Rocket Vehicles Collection

The Ranger spacecraft gave scientists their first close look at the lunar surface. Nine Rangers were launched from 1961 through 1965. The first six attempts failed, but beginning in July 1964, Rangers 7, 8, and 9 successfully completed their 65-hour journeys to the Moon, transmitting television pictures of the lunar surface during the final minutes until their impact there. These pictures revealed details that could not be seen through telescopes on Earth. Each Ranger spacecraft had six cameras on board. The cameras were fundamentally the same with differences in exposure times, fields of view, lenses, and scan rates. The images provided better resolution than was available from Earth-based views by a factor of 1,000. These highly detailed images aided Apollo planners in locating landing sites. The intermediate stage booster for Ranger was the Agena-B upper stage. Made by Lockheed, it was fitted on the Thor or Atlas-D launch vehicles that became known as the Thor-Agena and Atlas-Agena.