Surveyor program

Surveyor (English for Surveyors ) is the name of a series of U.S. space probes of NASA, which landed on the moon 1966-1968.


As the successor of the Ranger lunar probes the Surveyor program was launched. The goal was the practice of a soft landing on the lunar surface, a very important aspect in preparing for the manned lunar landing. It was also possible to perform course corrections, shown, inter alia, and the surface of the moon examined with blades in order to determine the thickness of the dust layer can be presumed. The landing sites were selected for potential Apollo landing sites, but also on the geological aspects. In order to measure the impact forces upon landing, strain gauges were used, without knowing beforehand how the vacuum would affect the measurement result. The program cost 580 million U.S. dollars, which at the time corresponded to DM 2.32 billion.

The Surveyor probes were built by the Hughes Aircraft Company and started with Atlas - Centaur rocket from Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral. They each weighed about 1,000 kg, and were equipped with high-performance cameras and numerous detectors and instruments.


  • Between December 1964 and October 1966 held a total of five test flights with probe dummies. These flights were used for testing of the Atlas - Centaur rocket and the flight profile for the injection into a transfer orbit to the moon.
  • Surveyor 1 was launched on May 30, 1966, landed in Oceanus Procellarum three days later. The probe worked until July 14, 1966 a total of six weeks on the lunar surface and transferred 11,200 images. Surveyor 1 was the first soft landing of a U.S. probe on the moon. However, the Soviet Union had beaten the Americans and had already written on February 3, 1966 performs a soft landing with Luna 9.
  • Surveyor 2 was launched on 20 September 1966 was two days later but not a soft landing, but hit hard during crater Gambart C in the vicinity of Copernicus and was destroyed.
  • Surveyor 3 was launched on 17 April 1967. Three days later, the probe successfully landed in Oceanus Procellarum and remained active until May 4, 1967. It sent 6,300 images and resulted from a Bohrexperiment. During the moon landing of Apollo 12 in November 1969 Surveyor 3 was selected as the target approach. Parts of the probe, in particular their camera were dismantled by the astronauts Charles Conrad and Alan Bean and brought back to earth. During the subsequent investigation of the parts of the microbiologist Frederick Mitchell was able to find that in the isolation of the camera dried bacteria (Streptococcus withus ) had traveled to the moon. It is believed that they were left by an assembler of colds probe there. The bacteria were able to germinate again in the incubator and are considered indicators of possible survivability in space (see panspermia ). The camera is now in the National Air and Space Museum.
  • Surveyor 4 launched on 14 July 1967, but succeeded again no landing. The probe struck out three days later in the sinus Medii on hard.
  • Surveyor 5 launched on 8 September 1967 landed three days later at Mare Tranquillitatis ( " Sea of ​​Tranquility " ) and sent up to the December 17, 1967 19,000 images, data and analyzed a soil sample.
  • Surveyor 6 launched on 7 November 1967 and ended three days later in the sinus Medii and worked until December 14, 1967. The probe sent 15,000 pictures and a lot of data. On November 17, 1967, the engine of the probe was restarted and the probe then sat 2.5 m away again.
  • Surveyor 7 was launched on January 7, 1968, landed three days later near the crater Tycho. The probe sent to the February 21, 1968 21,000 images.


The Surveyor program ended with five successful lunar landings ( success rate: 72%). The probes analyzed the lunar soil, photographed the surface and thus successfully prepared the ground for the manned lunar landing, in particular by evidence that astronauts would not sink on the moon in the dust. In March 2010, the lunar probe Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter sent inter alia, Shots of Surveyor 5