January 30 – Ranger 6

Spacecraft Ranger 6 was launched by NASA on January 30th 1964 from Cape Canaveral.  The plan was to transmit high resolution pictures back from the surface of the Moon.  Ranger 6 did indeed make it to the Moon, landing in the Mare Tranquillitatis on Feb 2nd, but was never heard from again (a short-circuit during separation from the launch vehicle had rendered the cameras inoperative).

Ranger 6

Ranger 6

Not wanting to feel left out, the Russians on this day in 1964 managed to  launch two spacecraft at once for the first time.  Elektron 1 and Elektron 2 were hoist skyward atop a Vostok-K rocket to study the Van Allen radiation belt and the Earth’s magnetic field.  The two were launched simultaneously to allow the inner and outer belts to be studied at the same time.   I believe all 350kg (771 lb) of  Elektron 1 is still up there.

Elektron-style satellite (possibly Elektron 1, but you can never be sure).

Elektron-style satellite (possibly Elektron 1, but you can never be sure).

 

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