One Space Launch, One Space Landing

Fifty years ago today — October 18, 1962 — Ranger 5 was launched from Cape Canaveral on its mission to the Moon.

(Ranger 5. NASA image.)

Ranger 5 launched atop an Atlas Agena rocket, but unfortunately it did not complete its mission. It was intended primarily to “transmit pictures of the lunar surface to Earth stations during a period of 10 minutes of flight prior to impacting on the Moon, to rough-land a seismometer capsule on the Moon,” and to complete other objectives, but

Due to an unknown malfunction after injection into lunar trajectory from Earth parking orbit, the spacecraft failed to receive power. The batteries ran down after 8 hours, 44 minutes, rendering the spacecraft inoperable. Ranger 5 missed the Moon by 725 km. It is now in a heliocentric orbit.

In more successful space history, on this date 45 years ago, the Soviet Union’s Venera 4 landed on Venus.

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