The scientific tourist #115 — meeting the Surveyor

This week’s image is a scan of a photograph of an engineering model Surveyor lunar lander (sorry for the odd colors, the original photograph is some 20 years old) at JPL:

OK, so the photo’s nothing to write home about, but it should hopefully give you a feel for the scale of a Surveyor — a bit over 10 feet tall, and about as wide (not including the landing gear, which folded up for launch).

The Surveyor Program sent seven of these landers to the Moon from 1966 through 1968 — all but two were successful. While their primary goal was demonstrating soft landings on the lunar surface (and Surveyor 1 did make the first-ever soft landing on the Moon), they also demonstrated the ability of spacecraft to make midcourse maneuvers, and carried instruments to help evaluate their landing sites for potential future Apollo manned landings.

Probably the best documented spacecraft of the series was Surveyor 3 — in 1969, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean walked to the landed craft from the Apollo 12 lunar module and recovered the Surveyor’s TV camera for study. Since the Surveyor had landed two years earlier, the retrieved camera helped its examiners learn how electronics held up in the lunar environment, and also showed that bacteria inadvertently trapped inside the camera could survive the harsh conditions of space (although this has since been challenged).

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