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), but 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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Hanneke Weitering is an editor at Space.com with 10 years of experience in science journalism. She has previously written for Scholastic Classroom Magazines, MedPage Today and The Joint Institute for Computational Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After studying physics at the University of Tennessee in her hometown of Knoxville, she earned her graduate degree in Science, Health and Environmental Reporting (SHERP) from New York University. Hanneke joined the Space.com team in 2016 as a staff writer and producer, covering topics including spaceflight and astronomy. She currently lives in Seattle, home of the Space Needle, with her cat and two snakes. In her spare time Hanneke likes to explore the Rocky Mountains, basking in nature and looking for dark skies to gaze at the cosmos.
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