We land surveyors are usually the first boots on the ground for any endeavor. 55 years ago in June, NASA recognized the importance of land surveyors by naming the first US launched spacecraft intended to land (rather than impact) on the lunar surface Surveyor 1. According to an article from the NY Times, the Surveyor was traveling at 5,000 miles per hour when it began its’ descent to the moon, making it extremely difficult to achieve a soft landing. This proved the Surveyor’s advanced design.
Russia’s Luna 9 is generally thought to be the first soft landing capsule when in reality, its’ capsule just slowly free-fell to the Moon’s surface. NASA’s Surveyor 1 on June 2, 1966, was the first of the mostly successful US launched Surveyor series (Surveyor 3, 5, 6, & 7) to intentionally land softly on the Moon which allowed the spacecraft to map the lunar surface in preparation for the manned Apollo 11 landing. The Surveyor program manager at the time, Benjamin Milwitzky, stated that the Surveyor mimics the way a man might land on the moon, while the Luna’s technology would not allow for a safe human landing. Little did they know, the first man would land on the moon much sooner than they anticipated, all because of Surveyor 1.