Slice of History - 60 Years of Ranger
23 August 1961, 6:04AM marks the 60th anniversary of the failed launch of Ranger 1. Launched from Atlas Agena in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Ranger 1 was the first in a series of nine spacecraft launched in the early 1960s to explore the Moon. Designed to make a highly elliptical Earth orbit, and carrying several science instruments for studying cosmic rays, magnetic fields, and energetic particles, this orbiter ushered in both a trying and rich season of discovery for JPL.
During launch, a rocket malfunction caused the spacecraft to get stranded in low-Earth orbit, and one week after its launch, Ranger 1 burned up upon reentering Earth’s atmosphere. This, and the failure of the next five Rangers, did, however, lead us to one of JPL’s most cherished pieces of culture: the Lucky Peanuts.
Mission Trajectory Engineer, Dick Wallace, passed out peanuts the morning of the launch of Ranger 7, in the hopes of calming people’s nerves. When this Ranger performed flawlessly, JPL’s favorite superstition took hold, and now peanuts grace mission control facilities during launches, landings, flybys, and other critical mission stages. CL#21-0723