National Aeronautics and Space Administration Logo
Follow this link to skip to the main content NASA Banner
Solar System Exploration
 By Target   By Name   By Decade 
Search for Missions Containing:      Search
Surveyor 03
Surveyor 3 Mission to Earth's Moon

Mission Type: Lander
Launch Vehicle: Atlas-Centaur (AC-12 / Atlas D no. 292 / Centaur D)
Launch Site: Eastern Test Range / launch complex 36B, Cape Canaveral, USA
NASA Center: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Spacecraft Mass: About 1,000 kg at launch; 300 kg at landing.
Spacecraft Instruments: 1) imaging system and 2) surface sampler
Spacecraft Dimensions: About 3 m tall; 3 footpads each extended 4.3 m from the center of the spacecraft
Spacecraft Power: Solar cells, rechargeable silver-zinc batteries
Maximum Power: 85 watts
Total Cost: The entire Surveyor program of seven spacecraft cost about $469 million.
Deep Space Chronicle: A Chronology of Deep Space and Planetary Probes 1958-2000, Monographs in Aerospace History No. 24, by Asif A. Siddiqi

National Space Science Data Center,

Solar System Log by Andrew Wilson, published 1987 by Jane's Publishing Co. Ltd.

Surveyor 3 was the third engineering flight of the series; for the first time, it carried a soil-sampling instrument (the Soil Mechanics Surface Sampler) that could reach up to 1.5 meters from the lander and dig up to 0.5 meters deep. Unlike the previous Surveyors, Surveyor 3 began its mission from parking orbit around Earth with a burn from the Centaur upper stage, now capable of multiple firings. Although the landing radar cut out prematurely, basic inertial control ensured that Surveyor 3 landed on the lunar surface with minimal vertical velocity at 00:04:17 UT on 20 April 1967 in the southeastern region of Oceanus Procellarum, at 2°56' north latitude and 23°20' west longitude. A fairly strong sideways motion made the lander hop twice before coming to a standstill.

Less than an hour after landing, the spacecraft began transmitting the first of 6,326 TV pictures of the surrounding areas. The most exciting experiment of the mission was the deployment of the remote scooper arm, which, via commands from Earth, dug four trenches and performed four bearing tests and thirteen impact tests. Based on these experiments, scientists concluded that lunar soil had a consistency similar to wet sand, with a bearing strength of 0.7 kilograms per square centimeter-solid enough for an Apollo Lunar Module (LM). Last contact was made on 4 May 1967, two days after the lunar night began.

More than two years later, Apollo 12 astronauts Charles Conrad, Jr., and Alan L. Bean landed the Intrepid LM near the inactive Surveyor 3 lander on 18 November 1969. The astronauts recovered parts from Surveyor 3, including the soil scoop and camera system, to allow scientists to evaluate the effects of nearly two and one-half years of exposure on the Moon's surface.

Key Dates
17 Apr 1967:  Launch
20 Apr 1967:  Lunar Landing
Status: Successful
Fast Facts
Surveyor 03 Facts Apollo 12 astronauts visited Surveyor 3 on the Moon (right).

They removed a camera and soil scoop and brought them back to Earth to study the effects of 31 months on the Moon.

The camera is now on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Science & Technology Features
People Spotlight
Al Hibbs Al Hibbs
Al Hibbs decided as a five-year-old that he wanted to go to the Moon. He did qualify as an astronaut, but his legacy is in robotic exploration. Read More...
Awards and Recognition   Solar System Exploration Roadmap   Contact Us   Site Map   Print This Page
NASA Official: Kristen Erickson
Advisory: Dr. James Green, Director of Planetary Science
Outreach Manager: Alice Wessen
Curator/Editor: Phil Davis
Science Writers: Courtney O'Connor and Bill Dunford
Producer: Greg Baerg
Webmaster: David Martin
> NASA Science Mission Directorate
> Budgets, Strategic Plans and Accountability Reports
> Equal Employment Opportunity Data
   Posted Pursuant to the No Fear Act
> Information-Dissemination Policies and Inventories
> Freedom of Information Act
> Privacy Policy & Important Notices
> Inspector General Hotline
> Office of the Inspector General
> NASA Communications Policy
> NASA Advisory Council
> Open Government at NASA
Last Updated: 11 Feb 2015