February 17th, 2017

Before humans could land on the moon, NASA had to learn about the lunar surface.

Launched 52 years ago today, NASA’s Ranger 8 mission set off for the moon and captured more than 7,000 images of the lunar surface.

Image credit: NASA
Image credit: NASA

Ranger 8 launched on February 17, 1965 from Cape Canaveral, Florida and carried six cameras. The second successful Ranger mission, this spacecraft sent back images of the kind of terrain and obstacles that humans could possibly encounter. It impacted the surface on February 20th in Mare Tranquillitatis, the location where the Apollo 11 crew would land four years later.

The Ranger missions were designed to take pictures as it got closer to the moon’s surface before an eventual impact. The images paved the way for the Apollo landings by allowing NASA to study the moon in more detail than ever before.

Ranger 8 two seconds before impact. Image credit: NASA
Ranger 8 two seconds before impact. Image credit: NASA

The Ranger and Surveyor missions were precursors to the Apollo missions. Spacecraft from both the Ranger and Surveyor missions landed on the lunar surface, but Ranger missions crash-landed and sent images back before impacting, whereas Surveyor missions that followed Ranger landed softly on the lunar surface.

Learn more about the Ranger missions at

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.