What Was the First U.S. Spacecraft To Photograph the Moon and When Did Ranger 7 Transmit Lunar Images To Earth?

During the final 13 minutes before it crashed into the Moon, Ranger 7 sent back 4,316 photographs of the lunar surface.

In 1965, two more Ranger satellites took pictures of the Moon before crashing, providing a total of more than 17,000 photographs.

In February 1966, the USSR’s Luna 9 didn’t crash, but landed safely on the Moon, and sent back panoramic photographs of its surroundings.

NASA’s extensive Lunar Orbiter program sent five satellites into the Moon’s orbit from August 1966 to August 1967.

The Orbiter satellites were to photograph and map possible landing sights for a manned mission.

They took pictures as close as 24 miles (40 km) from the surface with wide-angle and telephoto lenses.

The first three missions were so successful that the last two were devoted to taking a photographic survey of the entire lunar surface.

The Lunar Orbiter photographs are still some of the best images of the Moon.