International Space Agencies – Missions and Discoveries

Surveyor-2 Spacecraft


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Surveyor-2

Mains level : Not Much

NASA has confirmed that the Near-Earth Object called 2020 SO is the rocket booster that helped lift the space agency’s Surveyor spacecraft toward the Moon in 1966.

Try this PYQ:

Consider the following phenomena:

  1. Size of the sun at dusk
  2. Colour of the sun at dawn
  3. Moon being visible at dawn
  4. Twinkle of stars in the sky
  5. Polestar being visible in the sky

Which of the above are optical illusions?

(a) 1, 2 and 3

(b) 3, 4 and 5

(c) 1, 2 and 4

(d) 2, 3 and 5

What is Surveyor-2?

  • The Surveyor-2 spacecraft was supposed to make a soft landing on the Moon’s surface in September 1966, during which time one of the three thrusters failed to ignite.
  • As a result of this the spacecraft started spinning and crashed on the surface.
  • The aim of the mission was to reconnoiter the lunar surface ahead of the Apollo missions that led to the first lunar landing in 1969.
  • While the spacecraft crashed into the Moon’s surface, the rocket booster disappeared into an unknown orbit around the Sun.

How was the object determined to be the rocket booster?

  • Astronomers track asteroids using telescope to determine if there are potentially hazardous asteroids that pose a threat to the planet.
  • Therefore, it is also important for them to be able to distinguish between natural and artificial objects that orbit around the Sun.
  • The rocket booster has come “somewhat close” to the Earth in the past few decades.
  • One approach to the Earth in late 1966 was so close that the object was thought to have originated from Earth.
  • In September, the NASA-funded telescope detected it.
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