In July of 1969 the United States landed two men on the Moon and safely returned them to the Earth in response to the challenge set forth by President John F. Kennedy at the beginning of the decade. That response required the marshaling of hundreds of thousands of persons in an intensive effort to resolve a host of substantial problems, some of which required extension of the existing limits of human knowledge. Among the major problems was the determination of the nature of the lunar surface. Could it support a manned spacecraft, and what were the possibilities of finding sufficiently smooth sites for the landings? The early lunar exploration program of NASA, which was based on the use of unmanned spacecraft, was designed to provide answers to these questions and also to provide a wealth of scientific data.
The Lunar Orbiter program, designed to obtain detailed photographs of potential Apollo landing sites, was a significant part of this exploration program. The program was managed by the Langley Research Center, with The Boeing Co. as prime contractor and Radio Corp. of America and Eastman Kodak Co. as major subcontractors. Five spacecraft were placed in lunar orbit from 1966 to 1967, and photographs covering landing sites and specific areas of high scientific interest were sent back to Earth. The last flight completed the photographic survey of the entire surface. A selection of these photographs, covering all the lunar surface, both front and back, is collected in this Atlas and shows greater surface detail than has previously been available from any source. This store of information is presented as a base for planning future exploration of Earth's nearest neighbor and also to stimulate interest in further scientific study of the Moon.
The undersigned, who were program manager and spacecraft manager, respectively, of the Lunar Orbiter program, take this opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding contributions of the many individuals from companies, universities, and Government organizations who contributed to the success of the program; to them we dedicate this atlas.
Clifford H. Nelson
Langley Research Center