NASA's Ranger spacecraft. Credit: NASA

What was Ranger 5?

NASA's Ranger 5 was the third attempt by the United States to land a spacecraft on the Moon. A malfunction with the spacecraft's batteries caused them to drain after about eight hours of flight, leaving Ranger 5 inoperable.

Nation United States of America (USA)
Objective(s) Lunar Impact
Spacecraft P-36
Spacecraft Mass 755 pounds (342.46 kilograms)
Mission Design and Management NASA / JPL
Launch Vehicle Atlas Agena B (Atlas Agena B no. 7 / Atlas D no. 215 / Agena no. 6005)
Launch Date and Time Oct. 18, 1962 / 16:59:00 UT
Launch Site Cape Canaveral, Fla. / Launch Complex 12
Scientific Instruments 1. Imaging System
2. Gamma-Ray Spectrometer
3. Single-Axis Seismometer
4. Surface-Scanning Pulse Radio Experiment

Key Dates

Oct. 18, 1962: Launch

Oct. 21, 1962: End of mission

In Depth: Ranger 5

This was the third attempt by the U.S. to impact the surface of the Moon using a Block 2 Ranger spacecraft.

On this mission, after just 15 minutes of normal operation, a malfunction led to the transfer of power from solar to battery power. Normal operations never resumed, and the battery power was depleted after 8 hours. After that, all spacecraft systems died.

The first course correction was never implemented, and Ranger 5 passed the Moon at a range of 450 miles (724 kilometers) Oct. 21, 1962, and entered heliocentric orbit. It was tracked to a distance of about 790,000 miles (1,271,381 kilometers).

Before loss of signal, the spacecraft sent back about four hours of data from its gamma-ray experiment.

Key Source

Siddiqi, Asif A. Beyond Earth: A Chronicle of Deep Space Exploration, 1958-2016. NASA History Program Office, 2018.

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