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Ranger, Surveyor, Luna, Luna Orbiter, 1960s Missions to Earth's Moon
Bob Shaw
post Apr 23 2005, 09:10 PM
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It was the Surveyor I landing which hooked me for life as a kid - I remember to this day the (unusual) BBC TV coverage of it, and the 'Live From The Moon' caption on the screen (and an utterly unintelligible picture!). There had already been much excitement created by the Daily Express and Sir Bernard Lovell's Jodrell Bank coup with regard to the first Soviet unmanned landing, so I guess we were all primed for it, poor though the initial images were.

I applaud the hard work being put into these old friends, and can *hardly* wait for the more-or-less finished items (I say 'more-or-less' because I'm sure they'll be a work in progress, forever being tweaked toward perfection!).


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tedstryk
post Apr 24 2005, 12:17 AM
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I imagine some 3-D data could be reconstructed for the Surveyors using data from different sun angles. It is is important to remember that, while certainly poor by todays standards, the Surveyors carried the best cameras to operate on the lunar surface of any unmanned mission/mission series (granted, the rest were Soviet).


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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Apr 24 2005, 12:44 AM
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Space History Geek Time:

(1) Phil Stooke has got me -- I wasn't aware that this was the main job of the Surveyor descent cameras. (Phil, have you ever considered the possibility of trying to locate the Surveyor 4 landing site, and thus finally laying to absolute rest the faint chance that it just might have suffered a transmitter failure on the way down and thus soft-landed intact?)

(2) According to Aviation Week (and, I believe, several other publications before Surveyor 1's launch), the decision had been reached not to swing out the high-gain antenna for descent photos even before that omni-antenna boom got temporarily stuck on Surveyor 1. (Even at age 12, I was following the space program in obsessive detail back then, as I already had been for 18 months -- I stayed up all night for the first time in my life to watch the Surveyor 1 landing and the first photos from it. That very first photo -- fuzzy though it was -- did clearly show one of the footads sitting intact on the surface, and just a short time later they started getting a parade of other photos in the preliminary 200-line mode that were more legible, including a few nice horizon shots. My comments 10 years later, when the TV networks -- at least on the Pacific coast -- couldn't be troubled to cover the Viking 1 landing live, are unprintable.)

(3) It was Surveyors 8 through 10 that would have had two survey cameras for stereo shots -- along with the alpha-scatter spectrometer, a better-instrumented version of the surface sampler arm for soil mechanics, a one-axis seismometer, a meteoroid ejecta detector, a package of gyros and accelerometers as a "touchdown dynamics experiment" to precisely monitor the landing shock for more soil mechanics data, and a bunch of heaters to allow the craft to be certain of surviving the lunar night.

Originally, in fact, these "Block 2 Surveyors" were supposed to be #5 through 7. But due to NASA's growing need to economize (largely due to Vietnam), plus the near-certain feeling that all the early Surveyors would fail (everyone had traumatic memories of the earlier and easier Ranger program), in early 1965 those three Surveyors were switched to become more of the simple "Block 1" variety -- with the Block 2 missions becoming #8 through 10, whose funding was always provisional. And then in December 1965 those three provisional Surveyors were cancelled.

When #1 shocked everybody -- including yours truly -- by succeeding, JPL was caught flat-footed and hastily had to try and devise a way to add more science instruments after all. The surface sampler and alpha spectrometer were picked as the most valuable possible substitutes for the descent camera. (By the way, NASA was seriously considering the "bunny hop" as early as Surveyor 2; a whole sequence of unfortunate events in the Lemony Snicket tradition delayed it until #6.)
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Phil Stooke
post Apr 24 2005, 03:36 AM
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It would not be possible to locate Surveyor 4 without images from the surface. The principal method for locating a lander on a planet's surface, from Surveyor 1 to MER, is to compare horizon topography with orbital images. Ewen Whitaker did this first for Surveyors 1 and 3, then 6 and 7. 5 was not located at the time, but he and I agree on a probable location now.

The only other methods would be (1) descent imaging (Ranger, Apollo, Huygens... and MER partially, but it didn't take images all the way down because its images were primarily for the motion stabilization system), and (2) actually resolving the spacecraft on the surface in orbital images (Surveyor 1, Apollos 15, 16, 17, MER).

We don't have orbital photography adequate to locate Surveyor 4, either its impact crater or an intact landed spacecraft. Viking Lander 2 is still the subject of searches by some of us, both by horizon feature identification and direct imaging.

Phil Stooke


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dvandorn
post Apr 24 2005, 06:57 AM
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QUOTE (BruceMoomaw @ Apr 23 2005, 07:44 PM)
(3)  It was Surveyors 8 through 10 that would have had two survey cameras for stereo shots -- along with the alpha-scatter spectrometer, a better-instrumented version of the surface sampler arm for soil mechanics, a one-axis seismometer, a meteoroid ejecta detector, a package of gyros and accelerometers as a "touchdown dynamics experiment" to precisely monitor the landing shock for more soil mechanics data, and a bunch of heaters to allow the craft to be certain of surviving the lunar night. 
*


Time to fill out the remaining dark corners in the Surveyor program's history...

(A) The original Surveyor program included both orbiter and lander versions. Mostly for management reasons, the Surveyor people got the orbiter taken away and were told to concentrate on developing a soft lander that would work. When a need for an orbiter was still keenly felt, the prosaically-named Lunar Orbiter program was conceived and funded (but given to another contractor).

(cool.gif Until fairly late in the development cycles of the later Surveyor block modes, there was a Block III design that used a modified Surveyor landing "base" to deliver a small roving vehicle. The entire science package, including the camera system, was located on the rover. For a time, as a last-ditch attempt to extend the Surveyor program, several groups were proposing that NASA skip the Block II flights and go directly from five or six Block I's to Block III rover flights. But the design team continued to have problems, the weight of the vehicle was going to need a more powerful booster than the Atlas-Centaur, and Apollo loomed in the very near future. So an early American lunar version of the MERs (and of Lunokhod) died a-borning.

There is some nice, if spotty, information about the Surveyor rover development attempt in Don Wilhelms' excellent "To a Rocky Moon." Unfortunately, I've never found any drawings or conceptions of any of the designs.

-the other Doug


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edstrick
post Apr 24 2005, 08:07 AM
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Good additional info there. I'm pretty sure I've heard the bit on the Surveyor 1 descent camera both ways, so I'm not sure the real story.

There was a series of JPL technical reports on progress in developing flight missions and other research and development, put out regularly as a geekish collection of reports in a quasi magazine jumble. I don't recall the series name, but it ran from the early 60's to maybe 1968 or so (budget cuts progressively killed much of NASA's published documentation after that). It was not the JPL Technical Report TR-##-#### series, which published the Mariner 2, 4, 69, 71 Ranger 7-9, etc mission reports. There is an enormous amount of info on the project developments in those, particularly Surveyor and block 4+ Rangers (ones after Ranger 9, which never flew)... instrument development stuff, etc.

A lot of this stuff is archived in government depositories in university engineering or aerospace libraries, if they haven't been able to through this "obsolete junk" out yet.
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Apr 24 2005, 09:37 AM
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Yep -- I first ran across that series in 1971 at the science library of UC-Santa Cruz (the basement, in fact). UC-Berkeley has an even more complete set. As a result, I can tell you more about the Rangers and early Mariners than you wanted to know. Unfortunately, it doesn't tell very much about the history of the Surveyors -- for that you have to go back to the several-volume 1968 JPL Technical report series on the program. (Stanford has a copy of that, but UCSC doesn't -- I don't know whether Berkeley does or not.)

Next time I'm at the Sacramento State U. library I'll take another look at that Aviation Week article -- come to think of it, I may have a photocopy of that page here. One thing I know virtually nothing about is the Block 3 Surveyor concept, although I can show you an article from a 1961 Aviation Week on design work for both a little 6-legged walking rover that could have been released from Surveyor and a tiny sample-return vehicle that Surveyor could have used to rocket a 1-pound lunar sample back to Earth. (Had we actually been focused on scientific lunar exploration instead of making monkeys out of the Soviets, we could have returned our first sample of the Moon in 1967.)

I did stumble once across a brief reference in one NASA microfiche (God knows where) to a reference to the the "planned camera system" for the Block 3 Surveyors, which was a high-resolution facsimile camera on a telescoping mast that would stick up as much as a dozen feet above the spacecraft -- thus allowing it to get both stereo and longer-range landscape views. But this camera would have been located on the main lander.
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edstrick
post Apr 24 2005, 09:45 AM
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Interesting!....

The Surveyor cameras were analog TV, and transmitted a slow scan analog signal. The 200 line mode was intended for omni antenna transmission and took quite a while.. maybe 5 min for a pic. <Memory here.> The 600 line mode pics were transmitted by the high gain antenna and could come back a bit slower than maybe 1 per minute. Data was recorded directly onto analog magnetic tape, and (probably) simultaneously onto film in a slow-scan film recorder.

Later in the program, selected images, for test and somtimes for scientific purposes, were digitized, radiometrically decalibrated, and put on film. The image quality removed ghosting effects in the raw film records and quite considerably improved the data. Some samples were shown of this for Surveyor 1, at least. This processing was done for colorimetric and polarimetric work to get "absolute" and polarimetry data on selected targets, but relatively little was published of this, and no decalibrated color pictures, as far as I recall.

I'm inclined to doubt that the analog tapes of the Surveyor data survive, but ghods (and the Great Ghoul of the Galaxy) only know!
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Apr 24 2005, 09:59 AM
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QUOTE (edstrick @ Apr 24 2005, 08:07 AM)
Good additional info there.  I'm pretty sure I've heard the bit on the Surveyor 1 descent camera both ways, so I'm not sure of the real story. 

*


The Shadow Knows! (Pause for deep, chilling laughter.)

Aviation Week, March 28, 1966: "One result of conservative mission planning ws a decision not to use the approach TV camera aboard SC-1 [Surveyor-1]. The camera, built by Hughes around a General Electrodynamics vidicon tube, was to have taken as many as 100 pictures of the Moon'surface from between 1000 to 80 miles above the surfce, just before ignition of the spacecrft's main retrorocket.

"Use of the approach camera was deleted from the first Surveyor mission even before the problems wih the planar array high-gain antenna wer discovered. [This is a reference to the previous section of the article, which refers to a problem discovered with the pointing motors on the solar panel and antenna at low temperatures -- leading to a change in their design starting with Surveyor 2.]

"It was felt that the use of the approach camera would introduce risky complications during the terminal descent phase of the mission, according to S.C. Shallon, chief Surveyor program scientist for Hughes. Transmission of the 600-line frames would have required additional commands -- needed to maneuver the spacecraft, aim the planar array high-gain antenna at Earth and activate the camera.

"Another reason was that the transmission of blocks of pictures would produce blank spots in the spacecraft telemetry record at a critical time.

"Doubts about the ability of the A/SPP polar axis [motor] to position the planar array on command cemented the decision not to use the approach TV. This is because the center of gravity of the spcecraft during the critical main retrorocket firing phase must be determined before launch, based on the planned position of the solar panel and planar array at the time of rocket ignition. This determines the placement of the 8700-pound thrust solid-propellant retromotor within the aluminum frame.

"Failure of the polar axis to orient the planar array to its programmed position could have disastrous effects upon the stability of the spacecraft during retro-firing...

"Hughes is proceeding with S-2, 3 and 4 as if the high-gain antenna will be aimed at the Earth in the pre-terminal phase and approach TV will be used. However, the decision to use the camera will not be made until after SC-1 performance is analyzed. [I never saw anything suggesting that they'd decided to use it on Surveyor 2. By the way, the failure of the attempt to turn it on for a test after landing on Surveyor 1 was due to the fact that they only tried this after Surveyor 1 had survived its first lunar night, during which it underwent serious battery damage from the cold. For the same reason, an attempt to briefly burp its vernier rockets to study the effect on the surface failed; that test had to be delayed until Surveyor 5, since the walls of the crater in which Surveyor 3 landed made it overheat and they had to quickly vent the verniers' helium.]

"Even if the approach TV is not used on later missions, it is possible that the planar array still may be aimed at Earth during the pre-terminal phase and used with the high-power transmitter to increase the telemetry transmission at that time to 4400 bits/second from the 1100 bits/sec. that is possible using one of the two omnidirectional antennas. [They never actually did.]

"However, transmission would still be switched to an omniantenna after main retromotor burnout, because it is expected that during the final vernier engine descent phase, in the last 2-2.5 minutes before landing, the high-gain antenna would probably become pointed away from the Earth."
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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Apr 24 2005, 10:01 AM
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By the way, that JPL series on their projects (several very short volumes each quarter) was called "Space Programs Summary".
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edstrick
post Apr 24 2005, 11:07 AM
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Ah!... an article from Aviation "Leak" I never saw back then or since. Details not in the Surveyor 1 Mission Report volumes JPL put out.
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PhilHorzempa
post Apr 24 2006, 09:05 PM
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[size=2]


To continue this discussion of Surveyor 1, I recall seeing a document at
the NASA HQ History Office that detailed the original suite of intruments that
were planned for the Surveyor lunar landers. It's been a while since I saw
that documant, so memories are a little fuzzy, but I think that the original
design featured items such as a Drill and some form of Spectrometer. Also,
I think that these varius intruments were mounted on some type of carousel.

Alas, as we all know, those instruments were never flown by the Surveyors.
In fact, a drill has never been included on an American lunar or planetary probe.
Does anyone know if the Soviets ever inlcuded one?


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Bob Shaw
post Apr 24 2006, 09:42 PM
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Another Phil:

Yes; that's how the samples were obtained for the Soviet Lunar sample return missions. And speaking of Phils, a certain Dr Stooke gets big mentions in the latest issue of the BIS 'Spaceflight' magazine for his work mapping the moons of Mars.

Bob Shaw


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Guest_BruceMoomaw_*
post Apr 24 2006, 10:52 PM
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I've got quite a bit more in the way of details on the early planned Surveyor payloads. In fact, one of the first aerospace articles I ever photocopied (back in 1966) was a detailed 1962 article on the huge payload they had planned for Surveyor at the start, which did indeed include a drill -- along with everything else up to and including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and a partridge in a pear tree.

In Nov. 1962, they scaled it radically down to a smaller payload including one descent and 2 survey cameras, a meteoroid ejecta detector, the surface sampler, a soil mechanics tester (with bearing strength and shear strength sensors), and an X-ray diffractometer hooked up to a rock grinder (which would have been loaded by the surface sampler) -- plus the alpha-particle spectrometer as a possible add-on, and the 1-axis seismometer and surface magnetic susceptibility and thermal diffusivity sensors as possible alternates. In 1963 they dumped the XRD and its grinder, replaced the soil mechanics tester with sensors on the surface sampler, and added the alpha-scatter sensors and seismometer plus a set of "touchdown dynamics" sensors. This became the official payload for the "Block 2 Surveyors", which were originally supposed to be #5 through 7 (and which also would have retained full ability to survive lunar nights).

In December 1965, saddled by continuing cost problems and Centaur failures, they dumped those and turned the last three Surveyors into Block 1s, which had lesser telemetry capability -- and then, after the unexpected success of Surveyor 1, they had to hastily jury-rig a plan to replace the descent camera on each of the last 5 Surveyors with another, more useful science instrument, thus allowing more science studies without having to expand the craft's telemetry and power systems. A few months after Surveyor 1's landing, they decided to install the surface sampler on #3 and 4 (minus its special soil bearing strength and shear strength sensors, using motor-current loads instead for those purposes); and a few months after that they picked the alpha-scatter sensor for the last 3 Surveyors. (Their reasoning in picking those two instgruments is left as a pretty easy exercise for the reader.) In early 1967 they realized that they could carry both instruments on #7.

As for the Lunas: all the sample-return missions carried drills. But Lunas 16 and 20 (plus, presumably, the crashed #18) carried only short ones that were intended to return 30-cm cores (and were actually stopped by rocks before that point). Lunas 23 and 24 carried drills to return core samples up to 2.5 meters long. (The arrangement was ingenious; the drill stem carried a flexible snake-type internal liner which was actually pulled out of the buried drill and coiled up inside the sample-return capsule, only slightly damaging the stratigraphy of the sample.) Luna 23 was damaged during its 1974 landing in "rough terrain" and couldn't use its drill -- I'd like to know more about that incident -- but #24 flew completely successfully 2 years later (after a delay caused by the Kremlin's determination at that time to try to design a Mars sample-return mission, a fool's quest that also led to the cancellation of Lunokhod 3 and staff cuts that probably caused the failures of the surface instruments on Venera 11 and 12). Apparently it returned a 1.6-meter core sample, which may have been a bit shorter than hoped -- although I'm getting fuzzy Web information on that.
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edstrick
post Apr 25 2006, 05:15 AM
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One other distinction I remember reading about the block 1 Surveyors... They carried a lot of engineering sensors and telemetry capability. Temperature sensors, voltages, whatever, all intended to provide gobs of information on vehicle performance during flight and landing and afterwards. Much of that... sensors, wiring, switching-boxes, encoders, whatever... would have been deleted from the block 2 Surveyors in favor of science instrumentation.
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