Lunar Orbiter Snaps Photo of 1968 NASA Lander: Big Pic

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NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University

Sept. 17, 2012 — This image from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) shows the Surveyor 7 lunar probe, seen from an altitude of about 31 miles (50 km) sitting exactly where it landed on Jan. 10, 1968, about 18 miles (29 km) north of the rim of the crater Tycho.

BIG PIC: Most Detailed View Yet of the Apollo 11 Moonwalks

The last lander of NASA's Surveyor program, Surveyor 7 was launched on Jan. 7, 1968, successfully making a soft landing on the moon three days later. The 11-foot (3.3 m) high lander gathered important information about the composition of the lunar surface and the mechanics of performing a safe landing there, and also captured a large amount of television images of the landing site — nearly 21,000 on the first day alone.

The data acquired by the Surveyor program was crucial to the success of the Apollo missions — although by the time Surveyor 7 was launched all the necessary information about the proposed Apollo landing sites had been gathered by its 4 successful precursors, which meant that 7 could be sent to investigate the ejecta blanket of Tycho, a region of scientific interest.

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A panorama of images acquired by Surveyor 7 shows the rim of Tycho on the lunar horizon, as well as some of the smaller craters and rocks in the foreground:

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