Kind: Lunar orbiter
Duration: 80 days
Rocket: Atlas SLV-3 Agena-D
Manufacturer: The Boeing Co.
Mass: 385.6 kg (850 lb)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral LC-13
"Requesting permission for flyby." Maverick - Top Gun
Reference System: Selenocentric
1º Orbit: Lunar
"The journey, not the arrival, matters; the voyage, not the landing." - Paul Theroux
The Lunar Orbiter 1 robotic spacecraft, part of NASA's Lunar Orbiter program, was the first American spacecraft to orbit the Moon. It was designed primarily to photograph smooth areas of the lunar surface for selection and verification of safe landing sites for the Surveyor and Apollo missions. It was also equipped to collect selenodetic, radiation intensity, and micrometeoroid impact data. Mission controllers injected the spacecraft into a parking orbit around Earth on August 10, 1966, at 19:31 UTC. The trans-lunar injection burn occurred at 20:04 UTC. The spacecraft experienced a temporary failure of the Canopus star tracker (probably due to stray sunlight) and overheating during its cruise to the Moon. The star tracker problem was resolved by navigating using the Moon as a reference, and the overheating was abated by orienting the spacecraft 36 degrees off-Sun to lower the temperature. Lunar Orbiter 1 was injected into an elliptical near-equatorial lunar orbit 92.1 hours after launch. The initial orbit was 189.1 by 1,866.8 kilometers (117.5 mi × 1,160.0 mi) and had a period of 3 hours 37 minutes and an inclination of 12.2 degrees. On August 21, perilune was dropped to 58 km (36 mi) and on August 25 to 40.5 km (25.2 mi). The spacecraft acquired photographic data from August 18 to 29, 1966, and readout occurred through September 14, 1966. A total of 42 high-resolution and 187 medium-resolution frames were taken and transmitted to Earth covering more than 5 million square kilometers of the Moon's surface, accomplishing about 75% of the intended mission, although a number of the early high-resolution photos showed severe smearing. It also took the first two pictures of Earth from the Moon. Accurate data were acquired from all other experiments throughout the mission. Orbit tracking showed a slight "pear-shape" of the Moon based on the gravity field, and no micrometeorite impacts were detected. The spacecraft was tracked until it impacted the lunar surface on command at 7 degrees north latitude, 161 degrees east longitude (selenographic coordinates) on the Moon's far side on October 29, 1966, on its 577th orbit. The early end of the nominal one-year mission resulted from a shortage of remaining attitude control gas and other deteriorating conditions and was planned to avoid transmission interference with Lunar Orbiter 2.