On this day in history, October 9, 1967, NASA’s Lunar Orbiter 3 spacecraft intentionally crashed into the Moon. NASA didn’t want the Lunar Orbiter to present a navigational or communications hazards to later Apollo flights.
Yesterday: USS Saratoga Launched
The Lunar Orbiter 3 was launched by NASA on February 5, 1967 as part of the Lunar Orbiter Program. It was mainly designed to photograph areas of the lunar surface to find and confirm safe landing sites for the Surveyor and Apollo missions.
The spacecraft acquired photographic data from February 15 to February 23, 1967, and readout occurred through March 2, 1967. During this period, the film advance mechanism showed irregular behavior, resulting in the need to begin readout of the frames earlier than anticipated. The frames were read out until March 4, when the film advance motor burned out. About 25% of the frames on the takeup reel were unable to read.
Overall, 149 medium resolution and 477 high resolution frames were returned. A frame of the Surveyor 1 landing site was included, allowing for identification of the location of the spacecraft on the surface. The Lunar Orbiter 3 was also equipped to collect selenodetic, radiation intensity, and micrometeoroid impact data.
The spacecraft was used until it impacted the lunar surface on command at 14.3°N latitude, 97.7°W longitude on October 9, 1967.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense