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Surveyor 6 on the Plains of Sinus Medii
Surveyor 6 on the Plains of Sinus Medii (click to enlarge)

Surveyor 6 on the Plains of Sinus Medii
Date: 23 Mar 2010

Surveyor 6 Landed 10 November 1967 in Sinus Medii (0.5 degrees N latitude, 358.6 degrees E longitude), almost dead center on the front side of the moon. One of its key experiments was measuring the surface chemistry with an alpha scattering detector, which showed the landing area to be basalt, similar to the surface measured by Surveyor 5. Surveyor 6 completed the data acquisition that the Apollo program needed and thus allowed Surveyor 7 to be sent to a site that was of higher scientific interest.

Near the end of the nominal two week mission NASA engineers commanded the Surveyor 6 engine to fire for a few seconds. The spacecraft rose about 4 m above the surface and landed about 2.5 m from its original landing spot. This was the first successful liftoff from the lunar surface. And perhaps the only spacecraft to land twice on the moon.

The Surveyor 6 spacecraft survived the two week lunar night, but no significant data were returned after contact was reestablished on December 14, 1967.

The Surveyor spacecraft were designed to characterize lunar surface properties to help engineers design the systems astronauts would use exploring the moon. Seven Surveyors were launched to the moon and five succeeded in landing and returning useful data. Surveyor 1 landed in May 1966 and Surveyor 7, the final mission in the series, landed in January 1968.

Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

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