Lunar Orbiter program

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The Lunar Orbiter program was a series of five unmanned lunar orbiter missions launched by the United States from 1966 through 1967. Intended to help select Apollo landing sites by mapping the Moon's surface,[1] they provided the first photographs from lunar orbit.

All five missions were successful, and 99 percent of the Moon was mapped from photographs taken with a resolution of 60 meters or better. The first three missions were dedicated to imaging 20 potential manned 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. Lunar Orbiter 4 photographed the entire nearside and 9 percent% of the far side, and Lunar Orbiter 5 completed the far side coverage and acquired medium (20 m) and high (2 m) resolution images of 36 pre-selected areas. All Lunar Orbiter craft were launched by an Atlas-Agena D launch vehicle.

The Lunar Orbiters had an ingenious imaging system, which consisted of a dual-lens camera, a film processing unit, a readout scanner, and a film handling apparatus. Both lenses, a 610 mm narrow angle high resolution (HR) lens and an 80 mm wide angle medium resolution (MR) lens, placed their frame exposures on a single roll of 70 mm film. The axes of the two cameras were coincident so the area imaged in the HR frames were centered within the MR frame areas. The film was moved during exposure to compensate for the spacecraft velocity, which was estimated by an electro-optical sensor. The film was then processed, scanned, and the images transmitted back to Earth.

During the Lunar Orbiter missions, the first pictures of Earth as a whole were taken, beginning with Earth-rise over the lunar surface by Lunar Orbiter 1 in August, 1966. The first full picture of the whole Earth was taken by Lunar Orbiter 5 in August, 1967. See http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/symbolizing-the-green-movement. The second photo of the whole Earth was taken by Lunar Orbiter V on November 10, 1967. This photo was published by Stewart Brand in the first Whole Earth Catalog in the fall of 1968. See http://sciencetrack.blogspot.com/2007/07/first-photo-of-whole-earth.html and http://www.aiga.org/content.cfm/symbolizing-the-green-movement [2]

Contents

Spacecraft and subsystems

The main bus of the Lunar Orbiter had the general shape of a truncated cone, 1.65 metres tall and 1.5 m in diameter at the base. The spacecraft was composed of three decks supported by trusses and an arch. The equipment deck at the base of the craft held the battery, transponder, flight programmer, inertial reference unit (IRU), Canopus star tracker, command decoder, multiplex encoder, traveling wave tube amplifier (TWTA), and the photographic system. Four solar panels were mounted to extend out from this deck with a total span across of 3.72 m. Also extending out from the base of the spacecraft were a high gain antenna on a 1.32 m boom and a low gain antenna on a 2.08 m boom. Above the equipment deck, the middle deck held the velocity control engine, propellant, oxidizer and pressurization tanks, Sun sensors, and micro-meteoroid detectors. The third deck consisted of a heat shield to protect the spacecraft from the firing of the velocity control engine. The nozzle of the engine protruded through the center of the shield. Mounted on the perimeter of the top deck were four attitude control thrusters.

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