Surveyor 1 Heads for the Moon
On May 30, 1966, the US sent a lunar soft-lander in an unmanned Surveyor program to the moon. The goal was to gather data about the lunar surface that would be needed in order to operate successful Apollo landings three years later.
Surveyor 1 landed on the Ocean of Storms June 2, 1966, the first American space probe on an extraterrestrial body. From the surface, Surveyor 1 transmitted more than 11,200 images via a radio-telemetry system. A television camera captured the thousands of still photos.
Though managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, it was Hughes that designed and built the space probe.
Unlike manned launches, Surveyor 1 was sent directly into a trajectory, then its retrorockets were turned off a mere 3.4 meters above the surface so it called soft-land (fall freely). The total flight duration was 63 hours and 30 minutes. The lander transmitted video through July 14th, save for during a two-week-long lunar night. Additional information was returned from Surveyor 1 through January 7, 1967.
From 1966 to 1968 there were seven Surveyor missions (numbered 1 through 7), of which five were successful.