Mission Type: Impact
Launch Vehicle: Atlas-Agena B (no. 9 / Atlas D no. 250 / Agena B no. 6009)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States, launch complex 12
NASA Center: Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Spacecraft Mass: 365.6 kg
Spacecraft Instruments: 1) imaging system (six TV cameras)
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, http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/
Ranger 7, the second of the Block III Ranger series, was the first unequivocal success in U.S. efforts to explore the Moon -- after thirteen consecutive failures. In some ways, it marked a major milestone in American deep space exploration because the ratio in favor of successes increased dramatically after this point.
After a nominal midcourse correction on 29 July, Ranger 7 approached the Moon precisely on target two days later. Just 15 minutes prior to impact, the suite of TV cameras began sending back spectacular photos of the approaching surface to JPL's Goldstone dish in California. The last of 4,316 images was transmitted only 2.3 seconds prior to impact at 13:25:49 UT on 31 July 1964.
The impact point was at 10°38' south latitude and 20°36' west longitude on the northern rim of the Sea of Clouds. Scientists on the ground were more than satisfied with Results; image resolution was, in many cases, one thousand times better than photos taken from Earth. Scientists concluded that an Apollo crewed landing would be possible in the mare regions of the lunar surface, given their relative smoothness.