Surveyor was a highly successful series of NASA/JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory) spacecraft that soft-landed on the Moon between 1966 and 1968 and, together with the Ranger and Lunar Orbiter programs, helped prepare for the Apollo manned landings. Once the early Surveyors had demonstrated an ability to make successful midcourse corrections and soft-landings (proving, in the process that the lunar surface was not covered in a thick layer of dust, as some scientists had feared), the remaining Surveyors were used to evaluate potential Apollo landing sites.


Seven spacecraft were launched, of which five arrived safely on the Moon and returned data. Surveyor 3 was the first of the series to carry a surface-sampling device with which the spacecraft excavated four trenches up to 18 centimeters deep. Eighteen months later, the crew of Apollo 12 landed nearby and recovered Surveyor 3's TV camera and other parts. Laboratory analysis showed that terrestrial bacteria had remained alive in the camera's insulation during its time on the Moon.


Surveyor 6 became the first spacecraft to (temporarily) lift off from the surface of another world. On November 17, 1967, its engines were fired for 2.5 seconds enabling it to rise 3.7 meters above the ground. It was then commanded to move 2.4 meters in a westerly direction and then touch down again. Following this maneuver, it continued its data-gathering mission, including the return of 30,027 pictures.


spacecraft launch date lunar landing location mass (kg)
Surveyor 1 May 30, 1966 Jun. 2, 1966 Ocean of Storms 269
Surveyor 2 Sep 20, 1966 Sep. 22, 1966 (crashed) Sinus Medii 292
Surveyor 3 Apr 17, 1967 Apr. 20, 1967 Ocean of Storms 283
Surveyor 4 Jul 14, 1967 Jul. 17, 1967 (lost contact) Sinus Medii 283
Surveyor 5 Sep 8, 1967 Sep. 11, 1967 Sea of Tranquility 279
Surveyor 6 Nov 7, 1967 Nov. 10, 1967 Sinus Medii 280
Surveyor 7 Jan 7, 1968 Jan. 10, 1968 Tycho north rim 280