Surveyor 7

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Surveyor 7 was the seventh and last lunar lander of the American unmanned Surveyor program sent to explore the surface of the Moon.

  • Launched January 7, 1968; landed January 10, 1968
  • Weight on landing: 305.7 kg (674.0 lb)

A total of 21,091 pictures were transmitted to Earth.

Surveyor 7 was the fifth and final spacecraft of the Surveyor series to achieve a lunar soft landing. The objectives for this mission were to: (1) perform a lunar soft landing (in an area well removed from the maria to provide a type of terrain photography and lunar sample significantly different from those of other surveyor missions); (2) obtain postlanding tv pictures; (3) determine the relative abundances of chemical elements; (4) manipulate the lunar material; (5) obtain touchdown dynamics data; and, (6) obtain thermal and radar reflectivity data. This spacecraft was similar in design to the previous Surveyors, but it carried more scientific equipment including a television camera with polarizing filters, a surface sampler, bar magnets on two footpads, two horseshoe magnets on the surface scoop, and auxiliary mirrors. Of the auxiliary mirrors, three were used to observe areas below the spacecraft, one to provide stereoscopic views of the surface sampler area, and seven to show lunar material deposited on the spacecraft. The spacecraft landed on the lunar surface on January 10, 1968, on the outer rim of the crater Tycho. Operations of the spacecraft began shortly after the soft landing and were terminated on January 26, 1968, 80 hours after sunset. Operations on the second lunar day occurred from February 12 to 21, 1968. The mission objectives were fully satisfied by the spacecraft operations.

The spacecraft landed near the large lunar crater Tycho, named for the famous astronomer. This crater is visible to the naked eye from Earth with luminous rays of impact ejected material emanating radially from it. Surveyor 7 was the final spacecraft in the Surveyor program. It landed perfectly, less than two miles (3 km) from the navigational target. The alpha backscattering instrument failed to deploy properly. Mission controllers successfully used the surface soil sampler claw to push the alpha backscattering instrument into the proper position to conduct its experiments. Battery damage was suffered in the first lunar night and transmission contact was subsequently sporadic. The spacecraft was last in contact on 20 February 1968.

Surveyor 7 was the first probe to detect the faint glow on the lunar horizon after dark that is now thought to be light reflected from electrostatically levitated moon dust.[1]


Science instruments


The TV camera consisted of a vidicon tube, 25 and 100 mm focal length lenses, shutters, polarizing filters, and iris mounted nearly vertically and surmounted by a mirror that could be adjusted by stepping motors to move in both azimuth and elevations. The polarizing filters served as analyzers for the detection of measurements of the linearly polarized component of light scattered from the lunar surface. The frame by frame coverage of the lunar surface provided a 360 deg azimuth view and an elevation view from approximately +90 deg above the plane normal to the camrea A axis to -60 deg below this same plane. Both 600 line and 200 line modes of operation were used. The 200 line mode transmitted over an omnidirectional antenna and scanned one frame each 61.8 seconds. A complete video transmission of each 200 line picture required 20 seconds and utilized a bandwidth of 1.2 kHz. Most transmissions consisted of 600 line pictures, which were telemetered by a directional antenna. The frames were scanned each 3.6 seconds. Each frame required nominally one second to be read from the vidicon and utilized a 220 kHz bandwidth for transmission. The dynamic range and sensitivity of this camera were slightly less than those on the Surveyor 6 camera. Resolution and quality were excellent. The television images were displayed on a slow scan monitor coated with a long persistency phosphor. The persistency was selected to optimally match the nominal maximum frame rate. One frame of TV identification was received for each incoming TV frame and was displayed in real time at a rate compatible with that of the incoming image. These data were recorded on a video magnetic tape recorder and on 70 mm film. The camera transmitted 20,961 pictures during the first lunar day, January 10 to January 22, 1968. From February 12 to February 14, the camera was operated in the 200 line mode because of loss of horizontal sweep in the 600 line mode. During the second lunar day, 45 pictures were transmitted before loss of power caused suspension of camera operation.

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