This is a 1/24th scale model of Ranger 1 and 2, the spacecraft series that sought to gather knowledge about the Moon in the first yearsof the space age, and which gave scientists their first close look at the lunar surface. Rangers 1 and 2 were test missions in Earth orbit, although neither of them were successful in 1959 and 1960. Later versions of this spacecraft, Rangers 7, 8, and 9, were successful in the middle part of the 1960s in reaching the Moon and returning imagery of its surface. Those pictures revealed details that could not be seen through telescopes on Earth.
Transferred from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In December 1959, after the failure of the first lunar probes, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) started the Ranger project, partly as a way to get out of the public relations mess the earlier failures had created. On 30 August 1961, NASA launched the first Ranger, but the launch vehicle placed it in the wrong orbit. Two more attempts in 1961 failed, as did two more attempts in 1962. NASA then reorganized the Ranger project and did not try to launch again until 1964. By this time its engineers had eliminated all the scientific instruments except a television camera. Ranger's sole remaining objective was to go out in a blaze of glory as it crashed into the Moon while taking high-resolution pictures. Finally, on 31 July 1964, the seventh Ranger worked and transmitted 4,316 beautiful, high-resolution pictures of the lunar Sea of Clouds. The eighth and ninth Rangers also worked well.