NASA Apollo, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, and Other Lunar Probes

The structure of this book was developed to allow the reader to proceed from pic­ture to picture on a zoom-in journey: locating the Apollo landings on the Moon from a naked eye or binocular point-of-view, to a telescope view, then transition to NASA photos of the landing sites, to finally photos from each landing taken by the Apollo astronauts during their missions. NASA has thousands of lunar photos, of which many are indelibly imprinted in the public’s mind. Rather than repeated the familiar, many of the NASA photos chosen for this book for comparison to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, or LRO, photos.

The genesis of this book stems from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) photos first released to the public in 2009. Among the LRO photos were the over­head images of the Apollo landing sites, with amazing details of the Lunar Module (LM) descent stage, trails left by the astronauts walking or using the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), and experiments left on the Moon’s surface. Seeing these LRO photos recapture for many people the memories and excitement of the Golden Age of NASA.

In researching for this book, the author was reminded of the unmanned lunar missions that preceded Apollo: the first and long forgotten photographic probe

Ranger series, and the lunar landing Surveyor. These early attempts by NASA, first to impact the Moon with Ranger, and then to accomplish lunar landings with Surveyor, were clearly a scientific and engineering learning experience. The first six Ranger missions were punctuated by failures in equipment and technique. Ranger 1 and 2 experienced launch failures. Ranger 3 and 5 missed the Moon entirely, while Ranger 4 and 6 impacted the Moon but failed to relay any data back to NASA. It wasn’t until Ranger 7, 8, and 9 that the NASA mission goals were accomplished by relaying photographic data prior to impacting the Moon.

The Surveyor program had its own share of problems, with Surveyor 2 and 4 crashing and Surveyor 3 having unplanned launches from the Moon’s surface due to the vernier rockets continuing to fire. Again, the lessons learned from the early Surveyor missions enabled NASA to successfully complete Surveyor 5, 6, and 7 missions.

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