NASA's Surveyor spacecraft. Credit: NASA

What was Surveyor 2?

NASA's Surveyor 2 was supposed to make a soft landing on the Moon, but a thruster failed to ignite, putting the spacecraft into a spin. The lander crashed on the Moon.

Nation United States of America (USA)
Objective(s) Lunar Soft-Landing
Spacecraft Surveyor-B
Spacecraft Mass 2,194 pounds (995.2 kilograms)
Mission Design and Management NASA / JPL
Launch Vehicle Atlas Centaur (AC-7 / Atlas D no. 194 / Centaur D)
Launch Date and Time Sept. 20, 1966 / 12:32:00 UT
Launch Site Cape Canaveral, Fla. / Launch Complex 36A
Scientific Instruments Imaging System

Key Dates

Sept. 20, 1966: Launch

Sept. 23, 1966: Lander crashed on the Moon

In Depth: Surveyor 2

Surveyor 2, similar in design to its predecessor, was aimed for a lunar soft-landing in Sinus Medii. During the coast to the Moon, at 05:00 UT Sept. 21, 1966, one of three thrusters failed to ignite for a 9.8-second course correction, and as a result, put the spacecraft into an unwanted spin.

Despite as many as 39 repeated attempts to fire the recalcitrant thruster, the engine failed to ignite, and Surveyor 2 headed to the Moon without proper control.

Just 30 seconds after retro-fire ignition at 09:34 UT Sept. 22, 1966, communications ceased, and the spacecraft crashed on the surface of the Moon at 5 degrees 30 minutes north latitude and 12 degrees west longitude, just southeast of Copernicus crater.

Key Source

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

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