There have been several missions to our Moon - most
noted is the Apollo series along with Apollo 11's
historic landing and the first man on the Moon -
In addition, you may want to check
AeroSpaceGuide. This site has some interesting
facts as well as mission summaries.
A Lunar History is available on
Lunar Prospector website.
Also, a detailed
timeline is available.
The Soviet Union:
The first landing - unmanned that is - on the
Moon goes to the Russians and its Luna 9 lander. All
told, the Soviet Union sent 5 landers to the Moon,
all unmanned (between 1965 and 1976).
Additionally, Luna missions from 1972 to 1976 sent
several landers on return sample missions:
- Luna 17 and Luna 21 had robotic rovers
- Lunokhod 1 and 2 were controlled from
The United States:
The first ever US probe to escape the gravity
Earth was the
Pioneer probe. Predecessor to the infamous
Pioneer's 10 and 11, the Pioneer 4 probe was
orbit the Moon in August of 1958.
The king of all Moon missions is the
Apollo Space Program. Unlike the conspiracy
theorists, we DID land on the Moon - and walked on
the face of it. Any statement against that fact is
an insult to the ingenuity of human intelligence -
and that is all I will say about that.
Prior to the Apollo missions, the
Ranger program (Rangers 7, 8 and 9) were
designed to take high resolution images of the Moon.
Much of the images we see in texts is the result of
Explorer program (the first United States
satellite in response to Sputnik - with continued
missions through to 2009) also visited the Moon:
- Explorer 35 operated from 1967 to 1973 in
orbit about the Moon
- Explorer 49 orbited the Moon from 1973 to
The Surveyor missions from 1966 to 1968 were used
to demonstrate our ability to land on the Moon.
These missions would spearhead the Apollo missions.
Lunar Orbiter missions (1966 to 1967) were
designed to generate high resolution maps of the
Moon. Interestingly, the orbits of these 5 probes
were on average 21 meters above the surface. In some
cases, the probe was only about 2 meters above the
A 21 year gap was breached when the United States
Clementine probe in 1994. The purpose was to
provide a general overview of the Moon. The probe
did discover what appeared to be water-ice within
the walls of a crater on the Moon's south pole.
The latest US mission to the Moon was the
Lunar Prospector. Launched in 1998 and operating
until 1999, this mission was designed to carefully
examine the spectroscopic makeup of the surface as
well as examine closely the water-ice at the south
The Asian Response:
The United States and Soviet Union were not the
only countries to eject probes to the Moon. The
Hiten-Hagomoro probe was launched in 1993 by the
Japanese Space Agency. Its purpose was to test
aerobraking methods as well as deliver a small
Asiasat 3/HGS 1 became a temporary accidental
Lunar orbiter. A failed booster forced mission
control to use controlled Lunar orbits to save the
satellite and place it in a stable
orbit - a
The only current Lunar mission is the
European Space Agency's SMART-1 probe. Orbiting
the Moon since November of 2004, the probe is
designed to look very close to many of the Lunar
features - mostly the darker ones.
In late 2005, Japan will launch another probe to
the Moon. the LUNAR-A probe is designed to closely
observe the interior use seismometers.
Another Japanese probe, also slated for late
2005, will join the LUNAR-A. the SELENE probe is
designed to study the evolution of the Moon.
NASA has proposed a name for a future Moon
mission - the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Polar
studies, magnetic field studies and lunar topography
are some of the mentioned goals. No dates as to
launch or design.
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