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Recalling Ranger 4, the first U.S. spacecraft to land on another celestial body

Friday, April 23rd 2021, 5:30 am - On the day in weather history, the Ranger 4 launched.

Listen to The Weather Network's This Day in Weather History podcast on this topic, here.

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features stories about people, communities, and events and how weather impacted them.


On Monday, Apr. 23, 1962, the Ranger 4 launched into space. Its mission was a part of NASA's unmanned Ranger program, which was created to get the first close-up images of the Moon's surface.

The Ranger spacecraft was developed to capture images of the Moon's surface and transmit them to Earth and then explode upon lunar impact.

RANGER IV satellite for use at the parade of progress show at the Public Hall Cleveland Ohio "Ranger IV satellite for use at the parade of progress show at the Public Hall Cleveland Ohio." Courtesy of NASA/Wikipedia

Ranger 1 launched in Aug. of 1961 and Ranger 2 launched in Nov. of the same year. They both failed during the launch. Ranger 3 launched on Jan. 26, 1962, and missed the Moon.

Ranger 4's mission is not considered "successful," but it did capture some footage of the Moon's surface, and it was the United State's first spacecraft to reach another celestial body.


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The mission failed because a computer onboard malfunctioned and didn't deploy the solar panels and navigation systems. The spacecraft ended up crashing on the far side of the Moon and did not return any scientific data to Earth.

Ranger 7 was the first successful mission, launching on Jul. 28, 1964. It transmitted images of the Moon's surface to Earth.

First image of the Moon returned by a Ranger mission First image of the Moon returned by a Ranger mission. Courtesy of NASA/Wikipedia

There were two more Ranger missions after the 7, and they were both successful. Ranger 9 was the program's final mission which launched in Mar. 1965.

To learn about Ranger 4, listen to today's episode of "This Day In Weather History."

This Day In Weather History is a daily podcast by The Weather Network that features unique and informative stories from host Chris Mei.

Subscribe to 'This Day in Weather History': Apple Podcasts | Amazon Alexa | Google Assistant | Spotify | Google Podcasts | iHeartRadio | Overcast'

Thumbnail: Courtesy of NASA

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