On This Day In Space: Aug. 23, 1961: Ranger 1’s botched space launch (Image Credit: Space.com)
On Aug. 23, 1961, NASA launched the Ranger 1 robotic spacecraft on a precursor mission to test new technologies for later moon missions.
NASA’s Ranger program had the ultimate goal of photographing and mapping the lunar surface. Ranger 1 was launched with the primary mission of testing the performance of the spacecraft’s functions and parts. It also studied particles and fields around the Earth in space.
While it was designed to enter a high orbit 37,000 by 684,000 miles (60,000 by 1,100,000 km), it never made it beyond low-Earth orbit.
A malfunction with the rocket caused the engine to shut down prematurely, which sent it tumbling around the Earth. On Aug. 30, it re-entered Earth’s atmosphere and was incinerated.
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