In 1962 the American Moon rocket Ranger IV landed on the far side of the moon but failed to send back pictures due to a technical fault.

It is the first time an American spacecraft has successfully reached the Moon – the Russians achieved the first ever lunar impact in 1959.

However, the main aim of the mission – to take television pictures of the lunar surface – was not achieved after all internal power on board the spacecraft failed two hours after launch.

The Ranger IV Atlas-Agena rocket, which took off from Cape Canaveral on 23 April, is one of the most sophisticated space machines ever developed.


It was specifically designed to crash-land on the Moon after capturing a series of images of the lunar surface on its approach.

The television pictures on board were designed to begin operating when the rocket came within 2,500 miles (4,023km) of the lunar surface – 40 minutes before impact – and then send an image of the Moon back to Earth every 13 seconds.

After the loss of internal power the spacecraft could only be tracked using the tiny radio transmitter in the lunar capsule. This is how scientists confirmed it had actually reached the Moon.

The latest mission was identical to that of Ranger III, which launched on 26 January this year.

But the expected pictures from that mission were not produced because the rocket missed the Moon by 22,862 miles (36,793km).

Nasa scientists will be hugely disappointed by this latest failure as a successful mission would have given them the first ever close-up images of the mysterious lunar surface.

Ranger IV was also equipped with a seismometer and radio transmitter, designed to be released in a small capsule from the rocket before impact and land on the Moon in sufficiently good condition to measure the frequency of natural earthquakes in the body of the Moon.

Images from this would have been sent back to Earth for up to 30 days for vital research.