Lunar Orbiter IV was the first of the five Lunar Orbiters to fly in a polar rather than a near equatorial orbit. After the success of the first three missions in mapping the near side equatorial region of the Moon to very high resolution, NASA decided to use the fourth orbiter to map the entire Moon at moderate resolution.

Lunar Orbiter was the first robotic spacecraft to take detailed photographs of the whole Moon from lunar orbit, offering amazing never before seen views of Earth’s satellite, from a perspective different from Earth. Soviet spacecraft had already sent back whole Moon images, but mostly very crude.

This superb medium resolution photograph of the crescent Moon was taken (simultaneously with high resolution Lunar Orbiter telephoto frame IV-120) with the wide-angle 80mm lens from an altitude of 2717 km and centered on the sea of clouds (latitude 14.46° S, longitude 16.43° W). The 93-km Crater Copernicus is well visible (top center).