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This Week in Astronomy History: May 31-June 6

Photo: George Ellery Hale’s widow, Evelina Hale, looks through the eyepiece of the Hale Telescope during its dedication ceremony in 1966 | Associated Press

June 2, 1966: Surveyor 1 soft-lands on the Moon

Surveyor 1 was the first of seven unmanned lunar soft-landers in NASA’s Surveyor program, which sought to test the feasibility of soft landings on the Moon for future crewed missions. Surveyor 1 was launched from Cape Canaveral aboard the Atlas-Centaur Rocket on May 30, 1966. It successfully soft-landed on the surface of the Moon three days later on June 2, 1966, becoming the first spacecraft to do so. In addition to transmitting over 11,000 images of the lunar surface back to mission control, the craft gathered information about the Moon’s soil, radar reflectivity, and temperature.

June 3, 1948: 200-inch Hale Telescope dedicated

Hale Telescope is a 200-inch reflector located at Palomar Observatory in San Diego County. The telescope was named in honor of George Ellery Hale, founder of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the visionary behind the telescope’s impressive size and design. Though the telescope was not yet fully completed, its dedication ceremony was held at the observatory on June 3, 1948. During the ceremony, speakers from Caltech and the Carnegie Institute addressed an audience of nearly one-thousand guests seated on the telescope’s observing floor. The telescope’s first official exposure, an image of variable nebula NGC 2261, was taken months later on the night of January 26, 1949. It was the largest effective telescope in the world until 1993, when it was surpassed by the 10m (32ft) Keck 1 telescope at Mauna Kea Observatories in Waimea, Hawaii.