Ranger spacecraft restoration

2015 Aug | #buildranger

I managed a team of 12 volunteers to restore a 50-year-old Ranger spacecraft at the California Science Center, and documented our progress on social media at #buildranger.

This particular Ranger had not yet been to the moon, but instead remained in storage at the Smithsonian after JPL and NASA completed the program in the 1960s. The Smithsonian approached the Science Center hoping to find an institution that could take on the task of assembling a complete spacecraft from the parts. Several parts missing from Ranger were also donated by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In the summer of 2015, Ranger was reassembled by our team of community volunteers at the Science Center, including USC students, who were guided by a retired JPL engineer that originally worked on the Ranger at JPL in its heyday. The team, which ranged in age from 18 to 80, sorted through 15 crates containing 744 spare parts and figured out how to put it back together with hardly any drawings or instructions in only eight months.

The fully restored Ranger was put on temporary public display at Space Fest, a three-day NASA festival held at the Science Center from Oct 30 to Nov 1, 2015. I presented a public talk on our team’s restoration work at Space Fest.


After we restored Ranger, the Smithsonian invited us to write a feature story for the Smithsonian Affiliate Newsletter. Ranger is currently in storage, but it will reappear in the upcoming Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center.