With the extraordinary news of China’s successful soft landing of a lunar rover on the surface of the moon on December 14, 2013, suddenly attention turned back to the history and photography of past space exploration. China was only the third country to send back pictures from the moon’s surface and the first to land a capsule there since 1976. The Soviet Union achieved the first soft landing of a spacecraft on the moon in January 1966; four months later, in June 1966, the U.S. successfully landed its own lunar probe. ICP recently acquired from a former NASA executive a spectacular early print of one of the first photographic panoramas of the moon’s surface from that very first unmanned U.S. mission. The sweeping two-by-four foot image shows the American lunar lander, Surveyor I, at the end of its first day of activity, June 2, 1966, casting its own long shadow on the rocky terrain of the so-called Sea of Storms (Oceanus Procellarum). This particular montage was compiled from 52 different television images beamed back to Earth. Surveyor I ended up transmitting over 10,388 pictures during that first day, and an additional 800 over the remaining 14 days before its batteries failed.
By ICP Chief Curator Brian Wallis