United States — NASA
Lunar Orbiter 1: Lunar Orbit

Mission Details

Mission Name: Lunar Orbiter 1
Mission Type: Lunar Orbiter
Operator: NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
Launching State: United States
Location: Between Mills & Mandel’shtam Craters ?
Latitude: 6.7
Longitude: 161
Launch Date: 10 August 1966, 19:26:00 UT
Landing Date: 29 October 1966
Objects on or Related to Site:
Lunar Orbiter 1
Image Source: NASA


Five Lunar Orbiter missions were launched in 1966 through 1967 with the purpose of mapping the lunar surface before the Apollo landings.

All five missions were successful, and 99% of the Moon was photographed with a resolution of 60 m or better. The first three missions were dedicated to imaging 20 potential lunar landing sites, selected based on Earth-based observations. These were flown at low inclination orbits. The fourth and fifth missions were devoted to broader scientific objectives and were flown in high altitude polar orbits.

The Lunar Orbiter 1 mission was designed primarily to photograph smooth areas of the lunar surface for selection of safe landing sites for the Apollo missions.

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Heritage Consideration

Lunar Orbiter 1 took the first picture of Earth from the vicinity of the Moon.

Object on or Related to Site

Object Name: Lunar Orbiter 1
Cospar: 1966-073A
Norad: N/A
Location: Precise location unknown or undisclosed.
Launch Date: 10 August 1966, 19:31 UT
Landing Date: 29 October 1966
Deployment: N/A
End Date: 29 October 1966
Function: Lunar imagery.
Image Source: NASA


The Lunar Orbiter 1 spacecraft was designed primarily to photograph smooth areas of the lunar surface for selection and verification of safe landing sites for the Surveyor and Apollo missions. It was also equipped to collect selenodetic, radiation intensity, and micrometeoroid impact data.

The spacecraft was placed in an Earth parking orbit on 10 August 1966 at 19:31 UT and injected into a cislunar trajectory at 20:04 UT. The spacecraft experienced a temporary failure of the Canopus star tracker (probably due to stray sunlight) and overheating during its cruise to the Moon. The star tracker problem was resolved by navigating using the Moon as a reference and the overheating was abated by orienting the spacecraft 36 degrees off-Sun to lower the temperature.

The spacecraft was tracked until it impacted the lunar surface on command at approximately 6.70 degrees N latitude, 162 degrees E longitude on the Moon’s far side on October 29, 1966 at 13:30 UT on its 577th orbit.

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