Goals: This was the first of 7 robotic spacecraft in the Surveyor program, which prepared for the upcoming Apollo missions by developing and validating technologies for soft landings on the Moon and acquiring information about the lunar surface.

Accomplishments: Following on the heels of the troublesome Ranger series of lunar missions, Surveyor 1 was a complete success. It achieved the first true soft landing on the Moon, using a retrorocket and then a bank of 3 thrusters to reduce its speed from 9,600 km/h (almost 6,000 mph) at an altitude of 76 km (47 miles) to just 5 km/h (3 mph) before the thrusters were shut off to avoid disturbing the landing site, and it was allowed to free-fall the remaining 4.3 m (14 feet) to the surface. The spacecraft transmitted more than 11,000 pictures along with information about the lunar surface's bearing strength, radar reflectivity, and temperature.

Earth's Moon News