Ranger 7 Takes 1st Image of the Moon by a US Spacecraft 50 Years Ago – July 31, 1964

As we remember the 45th anniversary of Earth’s historic 1st manned lunar landing last week by America’s Apollo 11 crew of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969, it’s likewise well worth recalling NASA’s pioneering and historic unmanned robotic mission Ranger 7 – that led the way to the Moon almost exactly 5 years earlier and that paved the path for the eventual 1st human footsteps on another celestial body.

Indeed the first critical robotic step to the manned landings was successfully taken when NASA’s unmanned Ranger 7 probe captured the first image of the Moon by a U.S. spacecraft 50 Years ago on July 31, 1964.

Ranger 7 took the milestone maiden picture of the Moon by an American spacecraft, on 31 July 1964, shown above, at 13:09 GMT (9:09 AM EDT) about 17 minutes before impacting the lunar surface on a suicide dive.

The history making image was taken at an altitude of 2110 kilometers and is centered at 13 S, 10 W and covers about 360 kilometers from top to bottom. The large Alphonsus crater is at center right and 108 km in diameter. Ptolemaeus crater is above and Arzachel is below.

Ranger 7 impacted out of view of the lead image, off to the left of the upper left corner.

“It looks as though this particular shot has been indeed a textbook operation,” William H. Pickering, the director of JPL during the mission, said at the time.

Guericke Crater as seen by Ranger 7. Ranger 7 B-camera image of Guericke crater (11.5 S, 14.1 W, diameter 63 km) taken from a distance of 1335 km. The dark flat floor of Mare Nubium dominates most of the image, which was taken 8.5 minutes before Ranger 7 impacted the Moon on 31 July 1964. The frame is about 230 km across and north is at 12:30. The impact site is off the frame to the left. Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech
Guericke Crater as seen by Ranger 7
Ranger 7 B-camera image of Guericke crater (11.5 S, 14.1 W, diameter 63 km) taken from a distance of 1335 km. The dark flat floor of Mare Nubium dominates most of the image, which was taken 8.5 minutes before Ranger 7 impacted the Moon on 31 July 1964. The frame is about 230 km across and north is at 12:30. The impact site is off the frame to the left. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The purpose of NASA’s robotic Ranger program was to take high-quality pictures of the Moon and transmit them back to Earth in real time before being decimated on impact.

NASA Ranger 7 spacecraft. Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA Ranger 7 spacecraft. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The priceless pictures would be used for science investigations as well as to search for suitable landing sites for NASA’s then planned Apollo manned Moon landers.

It’s hard to conceive now, but 5 decades ago at the dawn of the Space Age no one knew what the surface of the Moon was really like. There were vigorous debates back then on whether it was even hard or soft. Was it firm? Would a landed spacecraft or human astronaut sink?

Last Ranger 7 images taken before impact on the Moon.  They were taken by the number 1 and 3 P-channel cameras at 0.39 and 0.19 s before impact from an altitude of 1070 and 519 meters, respectively. The pictures are cut off because the spacecraft impacted the surface before completing the transmission. The top image was taken by the P3 camera and the bottom image by P1. The P3 image is about 25 m across. North is at 12:30 for both images. The impact occurred on 31 July 1964 at 13:25:48.82 UT. Credit: Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech
Last Ranger 7 images taken before impact on the Moon. They were taken by the number 1 and 3 P-channel cameras at 0.39 and 0.19 s before impact from an altitude of 1070 and 519 meters, respectively. The pictures are cut off because the spacecraft impacted the surface before completing the transmission. The top image was taken by the P3 camera and the bottom image by P1. The P3 image is about 25 m across. North is at 12:30 for both images. The impact occurred on 31 July 1964 at 13:25:48.82 UT. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Altogether the probe took 4,308 excellent quality pictures during its final 17 minutes before crashing into the Moon at 13:26 GMT (9:26 p.m. EDT) in an area between Mare Nubium and Oceanus Procellarum at a spot subsequently named Mare Cognitum at 10.63 S latitude, 20.60 W longitude.

The final image from Ranger 7 shown herein had a resolution of 0.5 meter/pixel.

Ranger 7 was launched atop an Atlas Agena B rocket on 28 July 1964 from what was then known as Cape Kennedy and smashed into our nearest neighbor after 68.6 hours of flight at a velocity of 2.62 km/s (1.62 miles per second).

The 365.7 kilogram (806 lb) vehicle was 4.5 m wide and stood 3.6 m (11 ft) tall and was the Block 3 version of the Ranger spacecraft. It was powered by a pair of 1.5 m long solar panels and was equipped with a science payload of six television vidicon cameras transmitting data via the pointable high gain antennae mounted at the base.

Ranger 7 was the first successful mission in the Ranger series. The flight was entirely successful and was followed by Ranger’s 8 and 9. They were built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California.

Here’s a short 1964 documentary chronicling Ranger 7 titled “Lunar Bridgehead” that truly harkens back to the 1950s and 1960s and sci fi movies of the time. No wonder since that’s when it was produced.

Video Caption. This 1964 documentary titled “Lunar Bridgehead produced by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, chronicles the moments leading up to and following the Ranger 7 mission’s lunar impact 50 years ago. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

During the 1960’s NASA implemented an ambitions three pronged strategy of robotic missions – including Ranger, Lunar Orbiter and Surveyor – that imaged the Moon and studied it’s physical and chemical properties and supported and enabled the Apollo program and led directly to Neil Armstrong stepping onto the alien lunar landscape.

Three members of the Ranger 7 television experiment team stand near a scale model and lunar globe at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). From left: Ewen Whitaker, Dr. Gerard Kuiper, and Ray Heacock. Kuiper was the director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) at the University of Arizona. Whitaker was a research associate at LPL. Heacock was the Lunar and Planetary Instruments section chief at JPL.  Credit:  NASA/JPL-Caltech
Three members of the Ranger 7 television experiment team stand near a scale model and lunar globe at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). From left: Ewen Whitaker, Dr. Gerard Kuiper, and Ray Heacock. Kuiper was the director of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory (LPL) at the University of Arizona. Whitaker was a research associate at LPL. Heacock was the Lunar and Planetary Instruments section chief at JPL. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Read more about pathfinding space missions in my earlier space history story about Mariner 10 – the first space probe to ever carry out a planetary gravity assist maneuver used to alter its speed and trajectory – in order to reach another celestial body – here.

Read my 45th Apollo 11 anniversary articles here:

Apollo 11 Splashdown 45 Years Ago on July 24, 1969 Concludes 1st Moon Landing Mission – Gallery

Historic Human Spaceflight Facility at Kennedy Renamed in Honor of Neil Armstrong – 1st Man on the Moon

Apollo 11 Moon Landing 45 Years Ago on July 20, 1969: Relive the Moment! – With an Image Gallery and Watch the Restored EVA Here

Book Review: Neil Armstrong – A Life of Flight by Jay Barbree

Stay tuned here for Ken’s Earth & Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Liftoff of Ranger 7 on July 28, 1964 from Cape Kennedy at Launch Complex 12.  Credit: NASA
Liftoff of Ranger 7 on July 28, 1964 from Cape Kennedy at Launch Complex 12. Credit: NASA
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin plant the US flag on the Lunar Surface during 1st human moonwalk in history 45 years ago on July 20, 1969 during Apollo 1l mission. Credit: NASA
Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin plant the US flag on the Lunar Surface during 1st human moonwalk in history 45 years ago on July 20, 1969 during Apollo 11 mission. Credit: NASA

SpaceX Leases Historic Launch Complex 39A from NASA for new Era of Commercial Space Launches

The keys to NASA’s historic launch Pad 39A that propelled humanity’s first man to walk on the Moon – Neil Armstrong – during the history making flight of Apollo 11, have been handed over to new owners, namely the private aerospace firm SpaceX for a new purpose – serving as a commercial launch facility.

NASA and Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., have just signed an agreement giving SpaceX rights to occupy and operate seaside Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida.

SpaceX was founded by billionaire, entrepreneur and space visionary Elon Musk.

SpaceX aims to give the now dormant pad a new lease on life in the emerging New Space era by revitalizing it as a commercial launch site for the company’s mammoth new Falcon Heavy rocket, currently under development, as well as for manned launches of the firm’s human rated Dragon spacecraft atop the Falcon 9 according to Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX.

“We’ll make great use of this pad, I promise,” Shotwell told reporters at a briefing at the pad.

The liquid fueled Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket in the world according to SpaceX, generating generating nearly four million pounds of liftoff thrust from 27 engines and thus significantly exceeding the power of the Delta IV Heavy manufactured by competitor United Launch Alliance.

Shotwell said renovations to pad 39A would start later this year. The maiden SpaceX launch from the complex is expected next year.

“We will launch the Falcon Heavy from here from this pad early next year,” Shotwell stated.

NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, left, Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana announce that NASA just signed a lease agreement with SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., for use and operation of Launch Complex 39A. Credit: Nicole Solomon
NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden, left, Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana announce that NASA just signed a lease agreement with SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., for use and operation of Launch Complex 39A. Credit: Nicole Solomon

The SpaceX Dragon is one of three commercial crew vehicles being developed under a public-private partnership with NASA to ferry US astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and restore America’s human spaceflight capability lost since the shuttle’s retirement.

The Boeing CST-100 and Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser are also vying for the next round of private ‘space taxi’ funding from NASA.

Pad 39A has been inactive and mothballed since the last shuttle mission, STS-135, thundered to space in July 2011.

Not a single rocket has rolled up the ramp at KSC in nearly 3 years.

NASA’s 135th and final shuttle mission takes flight on July 8, 2011 at 11:29 a.m. from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida bound for the ISS and the high frontier. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
NASA’s 135th and final shuttle mission takes flight on July 8, 2011 at 11:29 a.m. from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida bound for the ISS and the high frontier.
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The new lease agreement was signed by NASA and SpaceX officials and announced onsite at Pad 39 at the briefing.

“Today this historic site from which numerous Apollo and space shuttle missions began and from which I first flew and left the planet on STS-61C on Columbia, is beginning a new mission as a commercial launch site,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

“While SpaceX will use pad 39A at Kennedy, about a mile away on pad 39B, we’re preparing for our deep space missions to an asteroid and eventually Mars. The parallel pads at Kennedy perfectly exemplify NASA’s parallel path for human spaceflight exploration — U.S. commercial companies providing access to low-Earth orbit and NASA deep space exploration missions at the same time.”

Under terms of the new agreement with NASA, the lease with SpaceX spans 20 years.

“It’s exciting that this storied NASA launch pad is opening a new chapter for space exploration and the commercial aerospace industry,” said Bolden.

SpaceX will also maintain and operate Pad 39A at its own expense, with no US federal funding from NASA.

Pad 39A will be SpaceX’s third launch site. The company also launches its Falcon 9 rockets from nearby Pad 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and a west coast pad on Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Launch Pad 39A has lain dormant save dismantling since the final shuttle launch on the STS-135 mission in July 2011.  Not a single rocket has rolled up this ramp in nearly 3 years. SpaceX has now leased Pad 39A from NASA and American rockets will thunder aloft again with Falcon rocket boosters starting in 2015. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Launch Pad 39A has lain dormant save dismantling since the final shuttle launch on the STS-135 mission in July 2011. Not a single rocket has rolled up this ramp at the Kennedy Space Center in nearly 3 years. SpaceX has now leased Pad 39A from NASA and American rockets will thunder aloft again with Falcon rocket boosters starting in 2015. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The next Falcon 9 liftoff with an unmanned Dragon cargo freighter is currently slated from Friday, April 18 following Monday’s scrub.

NASA determined that the agency no longer has a use for pad 39A since the end of the shuttle era and has been looking for a new tenant to take over responsibility and pay for maintenance of the launch complex. The agency awarded the lease to SpaceX in December 2013.

Instead, NASA decided to completely upgrade, renovate and modernize Pad 39As twin, namely Launch Pad 39B, and invested in converting it into a 21st Century launch complex.

NASA will use Pad 39B to launch the state of the art Orion crew vehicle atop the new Space Launch System (SLS) booster for voyages beyond Earth and taking humans back to the vicinity of the Moon and further out on deep space missions to Asteroids, Mars and beyond.

The first unmanned SLS test flight from Pad 39B is slated for late 2017.

Pad 39A was an active NASA launch pad for nearly 35 years starting back near the dawn of the Space Age in the 1960s.

Apollo 4, the first flight of a Saturn V launch vehicle, rises from Launch Pad 39A. Credit: NASA
Apollo 4, the first flight of a Saturn V launch vehicle, rises from Launch Pad 39A. Credit: NASA

Apollo 4 was the first NASA booster to blast off from Pad 39A on Nov. 9, 1967 during the historic inaugural test flight of the Saturn V moon rocket that eventually served to dispatch all six US manned lunar landing missions.

The closing NASA use of Pad 39A took place on July 8, 2011 with the launch of STS-135 and orbiter Atlantis on the final flight of the space shuttle era.

The four person STS-135 crew delivered the last US pressurized module to the massive low-Earth orbiting ISS.

No Americans have launched to space from American soil since STS-135.

Launch Complex 39 was originally constructed to launch the Apollo moon landing missions atop NASA’s Saturn V booster in the 1960s and 1970s. Both pads were later modified to support the Space Shuttle program whose first launch took place in 1981 from pad 39A.

“Kennedy Space Center is excited to welcome SpaceX to our growing list of partners,” Center Director Bob Cabana said. “As we continue to reconfigure and repurpose these tremendous facilities, it is gratifying to see our plan for a multi-user spaceport shared by government and commercial partners coming to fruition.”

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Orion, Chang’e-3, LADEE, Mars rover, MAVEN, MOM and more planetary and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, celebrates lease agreement for use and operation of NASA’s KSC Launch Complex 39A in Florida. Credit: Nicole Solomon
Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, celebrates lease agreement for use and operation of NASA’s KSC Launch Complex 39A in Florida. Credit: Nicole Solomon

Yutu rover Suffers Significant Setback at Start of 2nd Lunar Night


China’s
maiden moon rover ‘Yutu’ has just suffered a significant mechanical setback right at the start of her 2nd lunar night, according to an official announcement from Chinese space officials made public this weekend.

The six wheeled Yutu rover, which means ‘Jade Rabbit’, has “experienced a mechanical control abnormality” in a new report by China’s official government newspaper, The People’s Daily.

‘Jade Rabbit’ was traversing southwards from the landing site as the incident occurred just days ago – about six weeks into its planned 3 month moon roving expedition.

However very few details have emerged or been released by the Chinese government about Yutu’s condition or fate.

“Scientists are organizing repairs,” wrote the People’s Daily.

The abnormality occurred due to the “complicated lunar surface environment,” said the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence (SASTIND) in a brief statement, without giving further details, according to the paper.

This situation is very serious because the “abnormality” took place just prior to the beginning of the 2nd lunar night and unavoidable ‘dormancy’ for both ‘Jade Rabbit’ and the Chang’e-3 mothership.

So it’s not clear at this time if Chinese space engineers were able to take any concrete actions to rectify the unspecified problem before both spacecraft entered their next two week long night time slumber.

Based on unofficial accounts, it appears that one of the solar panels did not fold back properly over Yutu’s mast after it was lowered to the required horizontal position into a warmed box to shield and protect it from the extremely frigid lunar night time temperatures.

That could potentially spell doom for the mast mounted instruments and electronic systems, including the color and navigation cameras and the high gain antenna, if true.

Portrait photo of Yutu moon rover taken by camera on the Chang'e-3 moon lander on Dec. 15, 2013 shortly after rolling all 6 wheels onto lunar surface.  Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Portrait photo of Yutu moon rover taken by camera on the Chang’e-3 moon lander on Dec. 15, 2013 shortly after rolling all 6 wheels onto lunar surface. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

The now world famous rover entered its second hibernation period at dawn on Saturday, Jan. 25, as the lunar night fell, according to the SASTIND statement.

The mothership “fell asleep” a day earlier on Friday, Jan 24.

Each ship had just completed their 2nd Lunar Day of operations and had apparently been functioning normally and taking planned scientific measurements and imagery.

The research program during Lunar Day 2 included optical telescope observations of the sky, extreme ultraviolent (EUV) observations of the Earth’s plasmasphere, subsurface radar measurements, and spectroscopic measurements with Yutu’s robotic arm.

Both vehicles depend on their life giving solar panels to produce power in order to function and accomplish their scientific tasks during each Lunar day which lasts approximately 14 days.

Likewise, each Lunar night also lasts approximately 14 Earth days.

In order to survive into the next Lunar day, they must each endure the utterly harsh and unforgiving lunar environment when the Moon’s temperatures plunge dramatically to below minus 180 Celsius, or minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit.

So they must enter a sleep mode to conserve energy since there is no sunlight to generate power with the solar arrays during the lunar night.

360-degree time-lapse color panorama from China’s Chang’e-3 lander This 360-degree time-lapse color panorama from China’s Chang’e-3 lander shows the Yutu rover at three different positions during its trek over the Moon’s surface at its landing site from Dec. 15-22, 2013 during the 1st Lunar Day. Credit: CNSA/Chinanews/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo – kenkremer.com
360-degree time-lapse color panorama from China’s Chang’e-3 lander
This 360-degree time-lapse color panorama from China’s Chang’e-3 lander shows the Yutu rover at three different positions during its trek over the Moon’s surface at its landing site from Dec. 15-22, 2013 during the 1st Lunar Day. Credit: CNSA/Chinanews/Ken Kremer/Marco Di Lorenzo – kenkremer.com

During the nocturnal hiatus they are kept alive by a radioisotopic heat source that keeps their delicate computer and electronics subsystems warmed inside a box below the deck. It must be maintained at a temperature of about minus 40 degrees Celsius to prevent debilitating damage.

In a historic first for China, the Chang’e-3 spacecraft safely touched down on the Moon at Mare Imbrium near the Bay of Rainbows some six weeks ago on Dec. 14, 2013.

Seven hours later, the piggybacked 140 kg Yutu robot drove off a pair of ramps, onto the Moon and into the history books.

Is it Farewell Forever Yutu ??

We don’t know yet.

And since there is no communication possible during sleep mode, no one will know until the resumption of daylight some two weeks from now – around Feb. 8 to 9.

Traverse Path of Yutu rover from Dec. 14 landing to Dec. 21. Landscape textured with Chang'e 3 imagery from space and ground.  Credit: CNSA/BACC
Traverse Path of Yutu rover from Dec. 14 landing to Dec. 21. Landscape textured with Chang’e 3 imagery from space and ground. Credit: CNSA/BACC

Whatever happens, China can be proud of their magnificent accomplishment with the Yutu rover and the 1200 kg stationary Change’-3 lander which has reinvigorated lunar surface exploration after a nearly 40 year gap.

And we wish China’s scientists and engineers well !

China is only the 3rd country in the world to successfully soft land a spacecraft on Earth’s nearest neighbor after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile as we await the fate of China’s Yutu rover trundling across pitted moonscapes, NASA’s Opportunity rover is in the midst of Martian mountaineering at the start of Decade 2 on the Red Planet and younger sister Curiosity is speeding towards the sedimentary layers of Mount Sharp.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Chang’e-3, Orion, Orbital Sciences, SpaceX, commercial space, LADEE, Mars and more news.

Ken Kremer

China’s Yutu Moon Rover and Chang’e-3 Lander – Gallery of New Images & 1st Earth Portrait

The Earth from the Moon – by Chang’e-3 on Christmas Day
Lander camera snapped this image on Christmas Day 2013. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences[/caption]

Nearly a month after the stunningly successful soft landing on the Moon by China’s first lunar mission on Dec. 14, 2013, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has at last released far higher quality digital imagery snapped by the Chang’e-3 lander and Yutu moon rover.

This release of improved images is long overdue.

And perhaps the best news of all involves a belated Christmas present to humanity – the publication of never before seen and absolutely stunning images of the Earth from the Moon captured by the lander on Christmas Day 2013.

We haven’t seen the Earth from the Moon’s surface in 4 decades – not since the 1970’s.

Photo taken by the extreme ultraviolet camera on Dec. 16, 2013 shows the observation of the Earth's plasmasphere by the Chang’e-3 lander. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Photo taken by the extreme ultraviolet camera on Dec. 16, 2013 shows the observation of the Earth’s plasmasphere by the Chang’e-3 lander. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Until now, most of the Chang’e-3 mission images we’ve seen have essentially been rather low resolution pictures of pictures – that is screenshots or photos taken of the imagery that has been flashed onto large projection screens at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, and then distributed by Chinese government media outlets.

So they have been degraded several times over.

Portrait photo of Yutu moon rover taken by camera on the Chang'e-3 moon lander on Dec. 15, 2013 shortly after rolling all 6 wheels onto lunar surface.  Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Portrait photo of Yutu moon rover taken by camera on the Chang’e-3 moon lander on Dec. 15, 2013 shortly after rolling all 6 wheels onto lunar surface. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

I’ve collected a gallery of the new Chang’e-3 lunar photos here for all to enjoy – see above and below.

The gallery includes photos taken during the final moments of the descent and landing on Dec. 14, 2013, as well as portraits and 360 degree moonscape panoramas taken by both spacecraft after Yutu rolled its wheels onto the loose lunar soil 7 hours later on Dec. 15, and the fabulous new images of Earth in visible and UV light.

Yutu moon rover imaged by camera on the Chang'e-3 moon lander on Dec. 16, 2013. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Yutu moon rover imaged by camera on the Chang’e-3 moon lander on Dec. 16, 2013. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Yutu and the lander are about to awaken from their self induced slumber which began at Christmas time to coincide with the dawn of the the utterly frigid two week long lunar night.

Temperatures plunged to below minus 180 degrees Celsius.

They went to sleep to conserve energy since there is no sunlight to generate power with the solar arrays.

Yutu portrait taken by the Chang’e-3 lander on Dec. 22, 2013.  China’s 1st Moon rover ‘Yutu’ embarks on thrilling adventure marking humanity’s first lunar surface visit in nearly four decades.  Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Yutu portrait taken by the Chang’e-3 lander on Dec. 22, 2013. China’s 1st Moon rover ‘Yutu’ embarks on thrilling adventure marking humanity’s first lunar surface visit in nearly four decades. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

After driving off the lander, Yutu – which means ‘Jade Rabbit’ – drove in a semicircle around the lander and headed south.

Jade Rabbit stopped at 5 designated places.

The pair of Chinese spacecraft then snapped images of one another at each location. Some of those images were included in this new batch.

So you can see the lander from 3 different perspectives collected here:

1st Photo of Chang'e-3 moon lander taken by the panoramic camera on the Yutu moon rover after it drove all 6 wheels onto the lunar surface on Dec. 15, 2013. Credit: CNSA
1st Photo of Chang’e-3 moon lander taken by the panoramic camera on the Yutu moon rover after it drove all 6 wheels onto the lunar surface on Dec. 15, 2013. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Side view Chang'e-3 moon lander in this image taken by the panoramic camera on the Yutu moon rover as it drove in a semicircle around the lander heading south. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Side view Chang’e-3 moon lander in this image taken by the panoramic camera on the Yutu moon rover as it drove in a semicircle around the lander heading south. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Photo of Chang'e-3 moon lander emblazoned with Chinese national flag taken by the panoramic camera on the Yutu moon rover on Dec. 22, 2013. Credit: CNSA
Photo of Chang’e-3 moon lander emblazoned with Chinese national flag taken by the panoramic camera on the Yutu moon rover on Dec. 22, 2013 during 5th and final stop as it drove in a semicircle around the lander heading south. Yutu is looking north, lander looking south. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

Here’s a pair of very cool 360 degree panoramas – taken by each spacecraft and showing the other.

This digitally-combined polar panorama shows a 360 degree color view of the moonscape around the Chang’e-3 lander after the Yutu moon rover drove onto the lunar surface leaving visible tracks behind.  Images were taken from Dec. 17 to Dec. 18, 2013.  Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
This digitally-combined polar panorama shows a 360 degree color view of the moonscape around the Chang’e-3 lander after the Yutu moon rover drove onto the lunar surface leaving visible tracks behind. Images were taken from Dec. 17 to Dec. 18, 2013. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
This digitally-combined polar panorama shows a 360 degree black and white view of the moonscape around the Yutu moon rover after it drove off the Chang’e-3 lander at top and left visible tracks behind.  Images were taken on Dec. 23, 2013.  Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
This digitally-combined polar panorama shows a 360 degree black and white view of the moonscape around the Yutu moon rover after it drove off the Chang’e-3 lander at top and left visible tracks behind. Images were taken on Dec. 23, 2013. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
1st panorama around Chang’e-3 landing site after China’s Yutu rover drove onto the Moon’s surface on Dec. 15, 2013. The images were taken by Chang’e-3 lander following Dec. 14 touchdown. Panoramic view was created from screen shots of a news video assembled into a mosaic. Credit: CNSA/CCTV/screenshot mosaics & processing by Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer
1st panorama around Chang’e-3 landing site after China’s Yutu rover drove onto the Moon’s surface on Dec. 15, 2013. The images were taken by Chang’e-3 lander following Dec. 14 touchdown. Panoramic view was created from screen shots of a news video assembled into a mosaic. Credit: CNSA/CCTV/screenshot mosaics & processing by Marco Di Lorenzo/Ken Kremer

Finally here’s imagery taken during the landing sequence by the descent imager in the final minutes before touchdown at Mare Imbrium, nearby the Bay of Rainbows, or Sinus Iridum region.

It is located in the upper left portion of the moon as seen from Earth. You can easily see the landing site with your own eyes.

And be sure to check my earlier story with an eye popping astronauts eye view video combining all the descent imagery – here.

Photo taken by the descent imaging camera on Dec. 14, 2013 shows lunar landscape during Chang'e-3 lunar probe's landing at an altitude of 99 meters.  Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Photo taken by the descent imaging camera on Dec. 14, 2013 shows lunar landscape during Chang’e-3 lunar probe’s landing at an altitude of 99 meters. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Photo taken by the descent imaging camera on Dec. 14, 2013 shows lunar landscape during Chang'e-3 lunar probe's landing at an altitude of 7.9 kilometers.  Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences
Photo taken by the descent imaging camera on Dec. 14, 2013 shows lunar landscape during Chang’e-3 lunar probe’s landing at an altitude of 7.9 meters. Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences

The landmark Chang’e-3 mission marks the first time that China has sent a spacecraft to touchdown on the surface of an extraterrestrial body.

China is only the 3rd country in the world to successfully soft land a spacecraft on Earth’s nearest neighbor after the United States and the Soviet Union.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Chang’e-3, Orbital Sciences, SpaceX, commercial space, LADEE, Mars and more news.

Ken Kremer