Unmanned Spacecraft (HQ-38) is a short NASA documentary film that gives viewers a look at the various unmanned spacecraft used in space flight missions during the late 1950s and planned for the early 1960s, including Explorer 6, Explorer 7, Vanguard 3, Pioneer 5, Ranger program, Surveyor program, and Mariner program. Dr. Hugh L. Dryden addresses the camera from behind a desk to open the film. Graphics are used to show images of space and stars. Engineers work on a satellite (01:50). A weather satellite rotates on display. A man climbs into a space flight simulator machine (02:25). In a laboratory, a satellite spins during tests. Explorer 6, nicknamed the “Paddle Wheel Satellite,” is worked on in a room (03:44). A Thor-Able rocket launches, taking Explorer 6 into space. Men in a control room watch for feedback from the launched Explorer 7 satellite (04:28). The film shows the Vanguard 3 satellite, as men hold it out in the field. Men prepare a sounding rocket for launch, and then the film shows several of the rockets being launched. A Scout rocket stands at launch pad (05:59), and viewers see the rocket launch. Graphics show the trajectory of a deep-space probe. Men work on space probe Pioneer 5 (07:06). The probe is launched on a Thor-Able rocket. Footage shows aurora borealis storms in the night sky. Researchers in NASA’s Application Program monitor data from Pioneer V (08:02). Viewers see the Jodrell Bank radio telescope located near Manchester, England, which is part of the Pioneer 5 experiment. Dr. Homer E. Newell, Deputy Director for the Office of Space Flight Programs, speaks to the camera (08:44). He shows the camera a model of an orbiting geophysical observatory satellite, which is currently being built. Newell shows the various components of the satellite. The film then shows a model of the lunar spacecraft Ranger and another model of the unmanned lunar spacecraft Surveyor. Footage of the models and graphics are used to show how the Surveyor will land on the moon and conduct its research on the surface of the moon. Newell then shows a model on a table in an office of the unmanned spacecraft Mariner (13:45), concluding the film.

Uncrewed or unmanned spacecraft are spacecraft without people on board, used for robotic spaceflight. Uncrewed spacecraft may have varying levels of autonomy from human input; they may be remote controlled, remote guided or even autonomous, meaning they have a pre-programmed list of operations, which they will execute unless otherwise instructed.

Explorer 6, or S-2, was an American satellite launched on August 7, 1959. It was a small, spheroidal satellite designed to study trapped radiation of various energies, galactic cosmic rays, geomagnetism, radio propagation in the upper atmosphere, and the flux of micrometeorites.

Vanguard 3 (international designation 1959 Eta 1) is a scientific satellite that was launched into Earth orbit by a Vanguard rocket SLV-7 on September 18, 1959, the third successful Vanguard launch out of eleven attempts.

Pioneer 5 (also known as Pioneer P-2, and Thor Able 4, and nicknamed the “Paddle-Wheel Satellite”) was a spin-stabilized space probe in the NASA Pioneer program used to investigate interplanetary space between the orbits of Earth and Venus. It was launched on March 11, 1960 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 17A at 13:00:00 UTC with an on-orbit dry mass of 43 kg.

The Ranger program was a series of unmanned space missions by the United States in the 1960s whose objective was to obtain the first close-up images of the surface of the Moon. The Ranger spacecraft were designed to take images of the lunar surface, transmitting those images to Earth until the spacecraft were destroyed upon impact.

The Surveyor program was a NASA program that, from June 1966 through January 1968, sent seven robotic spacecraft to the surface of the Moon. Its primary goal was to demonstrate the feasibility of soft landings on the Moon. The Surveyor craft were the first American spacecraft to achieve soft landing on an extraterrestrial body.

The Mariner program was a 10-mission program conducted by the American space agency NASA in conjunction with Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). The program launched a series of robotic interplanetary probes, from 1962 to 1973, designed to investigate Mars, Venus and Mercury. The program included a number of firsts, including the first planetary flyby, the first planetary orbiter, and the first gravity assist maneuver.

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