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On This Day: NASA’s Surveyor 7 Probe Lands on Moon

January 09, 2012 05:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On Jan. 9, 1968, the Surveyor 7 space probe made a soft landing on the moon.

The Surveyor Program

The primary purpose of the NASA’s Surveyor program was to test the feasibility of soft landings on the moon and make “observations that helped pinpoint locations that would be safe for Apollo landings,” according to NASA. The Surveyor probes conducted tests of properties of the moon’s surface, and were equipped with cameras that provided tens of thousands of images.

There were seven Surveyor missions between 1966 and 1968, five of which landed safely on the moon. “In total,” says NASA’s National Space Science Data Center, “the five spacecraft operated for a combined elapsed time of about 17 months, transmitted 87,000 pictures, performed 6 separate chemical analyses of surface and near-surface samples, dug into and otherwise manipulated and tested lunar material, measured its mechanical properties, and obtained a wide variety of other data that greatly increased our knowledge of the Moon.”

The Surveyor 7, the final Surveyor probe, completed its soft landing on the moon on Jan. 9, 1968. The New York Times described that the 10-foot high, 638-pound probe had “had beaten unfavorable odds against landing undamaged on terrain of unknown ruggedness.”

The Surveyor program proved that a manned landing was possible. Writing in National Geographic in 1966, following the success of Surveyor 1, NASA associate administrator for Space Science and Applications Homer E. Newell said, “For the first time, because of Surveyor, Project Apollo officials feel real assurance that an astronaut can safely set foot on the moon, that the moon's surface will support him, and that he will not be swallowed up in a thick sea of dust.”

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