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Exploration of the Moon

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Exploration of the Moon

Apollo 12 lunar module Intrepid prepares to descend towards the surface of the Moon. NASA photo.

The physical exploration of the Moon began when Luna 2, a space probe launched by the Soviet Union, made an impact on the surface of the Moon on September 14, 1959. Prior to that the only available means of exploration had been observation from Earth. The invention of the optical telescope brought about the first leap in the quality of lunar observations. Galileo Galilei is generally credited as the first person to use a telescope for astronomical purposes; having made his own telescope in 1609, the mountains and craters on the lunar surface were among his first observations using it.

In 1969, NASA's Project Apollo first successfully landed humans on the Moon. They placed scientific instruments there and returned lunar samples to Earth.

Early history

In Mesopotamia, Babylonian astronomers by the early first millennium BC had discovered a repeating 18-year cycle of lunar eclipses. They had also known by this time that 19 solar years is about equal to 235 lunar months.[1] In the 2nd century BC, Seleucus of Seleucia correctly theorized that tides were caused by the Moon, although he believed that the interaction was mediated by the Earth's atmosphere. According to Strabo (1.1.9), Seleucus was the first to state that the tides are due to the attraction of the Moon, and that the height of the tides depends on the Moon's position relative to the Sun.[2]

By the mid-first millennium BC, Indian astronomers described the Moon’s monthly elongation in the Aitareya Brāhmana.[3]

The ancient Greek philosopher Anaxagoras (d. 428 BC) reasoned that the Sun and Moon were both giant spherical rocks, and that the latter reflected the light of the former. His atheistic view of the heavens was one cause for his imprisonment and eventual exile.[4] In Aristotle's (384–322 BC) description of the universe, the Moon marked the boundary between the spheres of the mutable elements (earth, water, air and fire), and the imperishable stars of aether. This separation was held to be part of Aristotelian physics for many centuries after.[5] In the philosophy of Aristotle, the heavens, starting at the Moon, were the realm of perfection, the sublunary region was the realm of change and corruption, and any resemblance between these regions was strictly ruled out. Aristotle himself suggested that the Moon partook perhaps of some contamination from the realm of corruption.[6] In his little book On the Face in the Moon's Orb, Plutarch expressed rather different views on the relationship between the Moon and Earth. He suggested that the Moon had deep recesses in which the light of the Sun did not reach and that the spots are nothing but the shadows of rivers or deep chasms. He also entertained the possibility that the Moon was inhabited. It had been suggested already in antiquity that the Moon was a perfect mirror and that its markings were reflections of earthly features, but this explanation was easily dismissed because the face of the Moon never changes as it moves about the Earth.[6] The explanation that finally became standard was that there were variations of "density" in the Moon that caused this otherwise perfectly spherical body to appear the way it does.[6] The perfection of the Moon, and therefore the heavens, was thus preserved. Aristarchus went a step further and computed the distance from Earth, together with its size, obtaining a value of 20 times the Earth radius for the distance (the real value is 60; the Earth radius was roughly known since Eratosthenes).

During the Warring States of China, astronomer Shi Shen (fl. 4th century BC) gave instructions for predicting solar and lunar eclipses based on the relative positions of the Moon and Sun.[7] Although the Chinese of the Han Dynasty (202 BC–202 AD) believed the Moon to be energy equated to qi, their 'radiating influence' theory recognized that the light of the Moon was merely a reflection of the Sun (mentioned by Anaxagoras above).[7] This was supported by mainstream thinkers such as Jing Fang (78–37 BC) and Zhang Heng (78–139 AD), but it was also opposed by the influential philosopher Wang Chong (27–97 AD).[7] Jing Fang noted the sphericity of the Moon, while Zhang Heng accurately described a lunar eclipse and solar eclipse.[7] These assertions were supported by Shen Kuo (1031–1095) of the Song Dynasty (960–1279) who created an allegory equating the waxing and waning of the Moon to a round ball of reflective silver that, when doused with white powder and viewed from the side, would appear to be a crescent.[7] He also noted that the reason for the Sun and Moon not eclipsing every time their paths met was because of a small obliquity in their orbital paths.[7]

By 499 AD, the Indian astronomer Aryabhata mentioned in his Aryabhatiya that reflected sunlight is the cause behind the shining of the moon.[8]

Habash al-Hasib al-Marwazi, a Persian astronomer, conducted various observations at the Al-Shammisiyyah observatory in Baghdad between 825 and 835 AD.[9] Using these observations, he estimated the Moon's diameter as 3,037 km (equivalent to 1,519 km radius) and its distance from the Earth as 215,209 miles, which come close to the currently accepted values.[9] In 1021, the Islamic physicist, Alhazen, accurately explained the Moon illusion in the Book of Optics, which stated that judging the distance of an object depends on there being an uninterrupted sequence of intervening bodies between the object and the observer. With the Moon, there are no intervening objects, therefore since the size of an object depends on its observed distance, which is in this case inaccurate, the Moon appears larger on the horizon. Through Alhazen's work, the Moon illusion gradually came to be accepted as a psychological phenomenon.[10] He also investigated moonlight, which he proved through experimentation that it originates from sunlight and correctly concluded that it "emits light from those portions of its surface which the sun's light strikes."[11]

By the Middle Ages, before the invention of the telescope, an increasing number of people began to recognise the Moon as a sphere, though many believed that it was "perfectly smooth".[12] In 1609, Galileo Galilei drew one of the first telescopic drawings of the Moon in his book Sidereus Nuncius and noted that it was not smooth but had mountains and craters. Later in the 17th century, Giovanni Battista Riccioli and Francesco Maria Grimaldi drew a map of the Moon and gave many craters the names they still have today. On maps, the dark parts of the Moon's surface were called maria (singular mare) or seas, and the light parts were called terrae or continents.

The medieval followers of Aristotle, in the Islamic world and then in Christian Europe, tried to make sense of the lunar spots in Aristotelian terms.[6] Thomas Harriot, as well as Galilei, drew the first telescopic representation of the Moon and observed it for several years. His drawings, however, remained unpublished.[6] The first map of the Moon was made by the Belgian cosmographer and astronomer Michael Florent van Langren in 1645.[6] Two years later a much more influential effort was published by Johannes Hevelius. In 1647 Hevelius published Selenographia, the first treatise entirely devoted to the Moon. Hevelius's nomenclature, although used in Protestant countries until the eighteenth century, was replaced by the system published in 1651 by the Jesuit astronomer Giovanni Battista Riccioli, who gave the large naked-eye spots the names of seas and the telescopic spots (now called craters) the name of philosophers and astronomers.[6] In 1753 the Croatian Jesuit and astronomer Roger Joseph Boscovich discovered the absence of atmosphere on the Moon. In 1824 Franz von Gruithuisen explained the formation of craters as a result of meteorite strikes.[13]

The possibility that the Moon contains vegetation and is inhabited by selenites was seriously considered by major astronomers even into the first decades of the 19th century. The contrast between the brighter highlands and darker maria create the patterns seen by different cultures as the Man in the Moon, the rabbit and the buffalo, among others. In 1835, the Great Moon Hoax fooled some people into thinking that there were exotic animals living on the Moon.[14] Almost at the same time however (during 1834–1836), Wilhelm Beer and Johann Heinrich Mädler were publishing their four-volume Mappa Selenographica and the book Der Mond in 1837, which firmly established the conclusion that the Moon has no bodies of water nor any appreciable atmosphere.

Space race

The Cold War-inspired "space race" and "moon race" between the Soviet Union and the United States of America accelerated with a focus on the Moon. This included many scientifically important firsts, such as the first photographs of the then-unseen far side of the Moon in 1959 by the Soviet Union, and culminated with the landing of the first humans on the Moon in 1969, widely seen around the world as one of the pivotal events of the 20th century, and indeed of human history in general.

Landing map of Apollo, Surveyor and Luna missions.
Apollo 17 astronaut Harrison Schmitt standing next to a boulder at Taurus-Littrow during the third EVA (extravehicular activity). NASA photo.
The first man-made object to reach the Moon was the unmanned Soviet probe Luna 2, which made a hard landing on September 14, 1959, at 21:02:24 Z. The far side of the Moon was first photographed on October 7, 1959 by the Soviet probe Luna 3. In an effort to compete with these Soviet successes, U.S. President John F. Kennedy proposed the national goal of landing a human on the Moon. Speaking to a Joint Session of Congress on May 25, 1961, he said
"First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space."[15]
The Soviets nonetheless remained in the lead for some time. Luna 9 was the first probe to soft land on the Moon and transmit pictures from the Lunar surface on February 3, 1966. It was proven that a lunar lander would not sink into a thick layer of dust, as had been feared. The first artificial satellite of the Moon was the Soviet probe Luna 10 (launched March 31, 1966).

On December 24, 1968, the crew of Apollo 8, Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders, became the first human beings to enter lunar orbit and see the far side of the Moon in person. Humans first landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969. The first human to walk on the lunar surface was Neil Armstrong, commander of the U.S. mission Apollo 11. The first robot lunar rover to land on the Moon was the Soviet vessel Lunokhod 1 on November 17, 1970 as part of the Lunokhod program. To date, the last human to stand on the Moon was Eugene Cernan, who as part of the mission Apollo 17 walked on the Moon in December 1972. See also: A full list of lunar Apollo astronauts.

Moon rock samples were brought back to Earth by three Luna missions (Luna 16, 20, and 24) and the Apollo missions 11 through 17 (except Apollo 13, which aborted its planned lunar landing).

From the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s there were 65 Moon landings (with 10 in 1971 alone), but after Luna 24 in 1976 they suddenly stopped. The Soviet Union started focusing on Venus and space stations and the U.S. on Mars and beyond, on Skylab and Space Shuttle programs.

Before the moon race the US had pre-projects for scientific and military moonbases: the Lunex Project and Project Horizon. Besides manned landings, the abandoned Soviet moon program included the building of a multipurpose moonbase "Zvezda", the first detailed project, complete with developed mockups of expedition vehicles[16] and surface modules.[17]

Recent exploration

Cassini–Huygens took this image during its lunar flyby, before it traveled to Saturn

In 1990 Japan visited the Moon with the Hiten spacecraft, becoming the third country to place an object in orbit around the Moon. The spacecraft released the Hagoromo probe into lunar orbit, but the transmitter failed, thereby preventing further scientific use of the mission. In September 2007, Japan launched the SELENE spacecraft, with the objectives "to obtain scientific data of the lunar origin and evolution and to develop the technology for the future lunar exploration", according to the JAXA official website.[18]

The European Space Agency launched a small, low-cost lunar orbital probe called SMART 1 on September 27, 2003. SMART 1's primary goal was to take three-dimensional X-ray and infrared imagery of the lunar surface. SMART 1 entered lunar orbit on November 15, 2004 and continued to make observations until September 3, 2006, when it was intentionally crashed into the lunar surface in order to study the impact plume.[19]

The People's Republic of China has begun the Chang'e program for exploring the Moon and is investigating the prospect of lunar mining, specifically looking for the isotope helium-3 for use as an energy source on Earth.[20] China launched the Chang'e 1 robotic lunar orbiter on October 24, 2007. Originally planned for a one-year mission, the Chang'e 1 mission was very successful and ended up being extended for another four months. On March 1, 2009, Chang'e 1 was intentionally impacted on the lunar surface completing the 16 month mission. On October 1, 2010, China launched the Chang'e 2 lunar orbiter. China landed the rover Chang'e 3 on the Moon on December 14, 2013,.[21] Chang'e 3 is the first spacecraft to soft-land on lunar surface since Luna 24 in 1976.

Chandrayaan-1, an unmanned lunar orbiter, on October 22, 2008.[22] The lunar probe was originally intended to orbit the Moon for two years, with scientific objectives to prepare a three-dimensional atlas of the near and far side of the Moon and to conduct a chemical and mineralogical mapping of the lunar surface.[23][24] The unmanned Moon Impact Probe landed on the Moon at 15:04 GMT on November 14, 2008 [25] making India the fourth country to touch down on the lunar surface. Among its many achievements was the discovery of the widespread presence of water molecules in lunar soil.[26]

The BMDO and NASA launched the Clementine mission in 1994, and Lunar Prospector in 1998. NASA launched the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, on June 18, 2009, which has collected imagery of the Moon's surface. It also carried the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS), which investigated the possible existence of water in Cabeus crater. GRAIL is another mission, launched in 2011.


Following the abandoned US Constellation program, plans for manned flights followed by moonbases were declared by Russia, Europe (ESA), China, Japan and India. All of them intend to continue the exploration of Moon with more unmanned spacecraft.

China plans to conduct a sample return mission with its Chang'e 5 spacecraft in 2017.[27]

India expects to launch another lunar mission by 2016, which would place a motorized rover on the Moon.[28]

Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) plans a manned lunar landing around 2020 that would lead to a manned lunar base by 2030; however, there is no budget yet for this project and the plan reverts to robotic missions.[29]

Russia also announced to resume its previously frozen project Luna-Glob, an unmanned lander and orbiter, which is slated to launch in 2016.[30]

Germany also announced in March 2007 that it would launch a national lunar orbiter, LEO in 2012.[31] However the mission was cancelled due to budgetary constraints.[32]

In August 2007, NASA stated that all future missions and explorations of the Moon will be done entirely using the metric system. This was done to improve cooperation with space agencies of other countries which already use the metric system.[33]

The European Space Agency has also announced its intention to send a manned mission to the Moon, as part of the Aurora programme. In September 2010, the agency introduced a "Lunar lander" programme with a target of autonomous mission to the moon in 2018.[34]

On September 13, 2007, the X Prize Foundation, in concert with Google, Inc., announced the Google Lunar X Prize. This contest requires competitors "to land a privately funded robotic rover on the Moon that is capable of completing several mission objectives, including roaming the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending video, images and data back to the Earth."[35]

In March 2014, SpaceX indicated that while their current focus is not on Lunar space transport, they will consider commercial launch contracts for one-off Moon missions.[36]

Timeline of Moon exploration

Mission (1950–1959) Launch Arrival at Moon Termination Objective Scientific result
Pioneer 0 17 August 1958 17 August 1958 Orbiter Launch failure
Luna E-1 No.1 23 September 1958 23 September 1958 Impactor Launch failure
Pioneer 1 11 October 1958 13 October 1958 Orbiter Launch failure
Luna E-1 No.2 11 October 1958 11 October 1958 Impactor Launch failure
Pioneer 2 8 November 1958 8 November 1958 Orbiter Launch failure
Luna E-1 No.3 4 December 1958 4 December 1958 Impactor Launch failure
Pioneer 3 6 December 1958 7 December 1959 Flyby Launch failure
Luna 1
(Mechta, Dream, E-1 No.4)
2 January 1959 4 January 1959 Impactor Partial success (first successful flyby 5,995 km, shown Moon's magnetic field absence)
Pioneer 4 3 March 1959 4 March 1959 7 March 1959 Flyby Partial success (flyby 60,000 km)
Luna E-1A No.1 18 June 1959 18 June 1959 Impactor Launch failure
Luna 2 12 September 1959 13 September 1959 Impactor Success (first spacecraft reaching the moon surface, impacted east of Mare Serenitatis, discovered time variations in the electron flux and energy spectrum in the Van Allen radiation belt)
Pioneer P-1 24 September 1959 24 September 1959 Orbiter Launch failure
Luna 3 4 October 1959 6 October 1959 Flyby Success (first pictures of Moon far side)
Pioneer P-3 26 November 1959 26 November 1959 Orbiter Launch failure
Mission (1960–1969) Launch Arrival at Moon Termination Objective Result
Luna E-3 No.1 15 April 1960 15 April 1960 Flyby Launch failure
Luna E-3 No.2 16 April 1960 16 April 1960 Flyby Launch failure
Pioneer P-30 25 September 1960 25 September 1960 Orbiter Launch failure
Pioneer P-31 15 December 1960 15 December 1960 Orbiter Launch failure
Ranger 3 26 January 1962 28 January 1962 Impactor Failure (flyby)
Ranger 4 23 April 1962 26 April 1962 26 April 1962 Impactor Failure (no mid-course correction, crashed at Moon far-side)
Ranger 5 18 October 1962 21 October 1962 Impactor Failure (flyby)
Luna E-6 No.2 4 January 1963 11 January 1963 Lander Launched into wrong orbit
Luna E-6 No.3 3 February 1963 3 February 1963 Lander Launch failure
Luna 4 2 April 1963 >6 April 1963 Lander Failure (flyby)
Ranger 6 30 January 1964 2 February 1964 2 February 1964 Impactor Failure (TV camera, only instrument, did not work)
Luna E-6 No.6 21 March 1964 21 March 1964 Lander Launch failure
Luna E-6 No.5 20 April 1964 20 April 1964 Lander Launch failure
Ranger 7 28 July 1964 31 July 1964 Impactor Success
Ranger 8 17 February 1965 20 February 1965 Impactor Success
Cosmos 60 12 March 1965 Lander Failed to leave Earth orbit
Ranger 9 21 March 1965 24 March 1965 Impactor Success
Luna E-6 No.8 10 April 1965 10 April 1965 Lander Launch failure
Luna 5 9 May 1965 12 May 1965 Lander Failure (crashed at Sea of Clouds)
Luna 6 8 June 1965 11 June 1965 Lander Failure (flyby)
Zond 3 18 July 1965 20 July 1965 Flyby Success
Luna 7 4 October 1965 7 October 1965 Lander Failure (crashed at Oceanus Procellarum)
Luna 8 3 December 1965 6 December 1965 Lander Failure (crashed at Oceanus Procellarum)
Luna 9 31 January 1966 3 February 1966 6 February 1966 Lander Success (first spacecraft to achieve a soft landing and first pictures from Moon surface, landed at Oceanus Procellarum)
Cosmos 111 1 March 1966 3 March 1966 Orbiter Launched into wrong orbit
Luna 10 31 March 1966 3 April 1966 30 May 1966 Orbiter Success (first lunar orbiter)
Surveyor 1 30 May 1966 2 June 1966 7 January 1967 Lander Success (landed at Oceanus Procellarum)
Lunar Orbiter 1 10 August 1966 14 August 1966 29 October 1966 Orbiter Success
Luna 11 24 August 1966 27 August 1966 1 October 1966 Orbiter Success
Surveyor 2 20 September 1966 23 September 1966 23 September 1966 Lander Failure (crashed near Copernicus crater)
Luna 12 22 October 1966 25 October 1966 19 January 1967 Orbiter Success
Lunar Orbiter 2 6 November 1966 10 November 1966 11 October 1967 Orbiter Success
Luna 13 21 December 1966 24 December 1966 28 December 1966 Lander Success (landed at Oceanus Procellarum)
Lunar Orbiter 3 5 February 1967 8 February 1967 9 October 1967 Orbiter Partial success (picture acquisition cut short)
Surveyor 3 17 April 1967 20 April 1967 3 May 1967 Lander Success (portions subsequently retrieved by Apollo 12 astronauts)
Lunar Orbiter 4 4 May 1967 8 May 1967 <31 October 1967 Orbiter Partial success (picture acquisition cut short)
Surveyor 4 14 July 1967 17 July 1967 17 July 1967 Lander Failure (may have exploded before reaching surface)
Lunar Orbiter 5 1 August 1967 5 August 1967 31 January 1968 Orbiter Success
Surveyor 5 8 September 1967 11 September 1967 17 December 1967 Lander Success
Surveyor 6 7 November 1967 10 November 1967 14 December 1967 Lander Success
Surveyor 7 7 January 1968 10 January 1968 20 February 1968 Lander Success
Luna E-6LS No.112 7 February 1968 7 February 1968 Lander Launch failure
Luna 14 7 April 1968 10 April 1968 Orbiter Success
Zond 5 15 September 1968 18 September 1968 21 September 1968 Flyby Success (first spacecraft and living beings to return to Earth from lunar flyby)
Zond 6 10 November 1968 14 November 1968 17 November 1968 Flyby Partial success (depressurisation lead to biologicals death, crashed due to failure in parachute)
Apollo 8 21 December 1968 24 December 1968 27 December 1968 Orbiter Success (first manned lunar orbiter)
Luna E-8 No.201 19 February 1969 19 February 1969 Rover Launch failure
Apollo 10 18 May 1969 21 May 1969 26 May 1969 Orbiter Success (lander test in Moon orbit)
Luna E-8-5 No.402 14 June 1969 14 June 1969 Sample return Launch failure
Luna 15 13 July 1969 21 July 1969 Sample return Failure (crashed at Mare Crisium)
Apollo 11 16 July 1969 18 July 1969 24 July 1969 Orbiter Success
20 July 1969 21 July 1969 Sample return Success (21.5 kg of lunar rocks retrieved, first humans on the Moon surface)
Zond 7 7 August 1969 11 August 1969 14 August 1969 Flyby Success
Cosmos 300 23 September 1969 23 September 1969 Sample return Launched into wrong orbit
Cosmos 305 22 October 1969 22 October 1969 Sample return Launched into wrong orbit
Apollo 12 14 November 1969 17 November 1969 24 November 1969 Orbiter Success
19 November 1969 20 November 1969 Sample return Success (First precise landing, recovered parts from Surveyor 3)
Mission (1970–1979) Launch Arrival at Moon Termination Objective Result
Apollo 13 11 April 1970 15 April 1970 17 April 1970 Sample return Failure (flyby, crew returned to Earth)
S-IV 14 April 1970 14 April 1970 Impactor Success (provided signal for the Apollo 12 Passive Seismic Experiment)
Luna E-8-5 No.405 6 February 1970 6 February 1970 Sample return Launch failure
Luna 16 12 September 1970 20 September 1970 24 September 1970 Sample return Success (first robotic lunar sample return, 101 g)
Zond 8 20 October 1970 24 October 1970 27 October 1970 Flyby Success
Luna 17 10 November 1970 17 November 1970 17 November 1970 Lander Success (soft-landed the Lunokhod 1)
Lunokhod 1 14 September 1971 Rover Success (First lunar rover, travelled 10,54 kmd)
Apollo 14 31 January 1971 4 February 1971 9 February 1971 Orbiter Success
5 February 1971 6 February 1971 Sample return Success
Apollo 15 26 July 1971 29 July 1971 7 August 1971 Orbiter Success
30 July 1971 2 August 1971 Sample return Success (first manned Lunar Roving Vehicle)
PFS-1 4 August 1971 January 1973 Orbiter Success (measured plasma, energetic particle intensities and lunar magnetic fields)
Luna 18 2 September 1971 11 September 1971 11 September 1971 Sample return Failure (crashed near the edge of the Sea of Fertility)
Luna 19 28 September 1971 3 October 1971 3–20 October 1972 Orbiter Success
Luna 20 14 February 1972 21 February 1972 25 February 1972 Sample return Success
Apollo 16 16 April 1972 19 April 1972 27 April 1972 Orbiter Success
21 April 1972 23 April 1972 Sample return Success
PFS-2 24 April 1972 29 May 1972 Orbiter Partial success (orbit decayed earlier than anticipated)
Apollo 17 7 December 1972 10 December 1972 19 December 1972 Orbiter Success
11 December 1972 15 December 1972 Sample return Success (first geologist on the Moon)
Luna 21 8 January 1973 15 January 1973 15 January 1973 Lander Success (soft-landed the Lunokhod 2)
Lunokhod 2 3 June 1973 Rover Success (longest rover journey on the Moon, 37 km)
Mariner 10 November 3, 1973 November 5, 1973 November 6, 1973 Flyby Success (took close-up photos of Lunar North Pole on way to Venus and Mercury)
Luna 22 29 May 1974 2 June 1974 early November 1975 Orbiter Success
Luna 23 28 October 1974 6 November 1974 9 November 1975 Sample return Partial success (sample drilling failed)
Luna 24 9 August 1976 18 August 1976 22 August 1976 Sample return Success (returned first samples where water was detected)
Mission (1990–1999) Launch Arrival at Moon Termination Objective Result
Hiten 24 January 1990 19 March 1990 10 April 1993 Orbiter/impactor Success (first aerobraking maneuver by a deep-space probe and first Asian object on the surface of the Moon)

25 January 1994 19 February 1994 June 1994 Orbiter Success
Lunar Prospector 7 January 1998 11 January 1998 31 July 1999 Orbiter/impactor Success
Mission (2000–2009) Launch Arrival at Moon Termination Objective Result
SMART-1 27 September 2003 15 November 2004 3 September 2006 Orbiter/impactor Success (first use of an ion engine to reach the Moon)
SELENE (Kaguya) 14 September 2007 3 October 2007 10 June 2009 Orbiter/impactor Success
Chang'e 1 24 October 2007 5 November 2007 1 March 2009 Orbiter/impactor Success
Chandrayaan-1 22 October 2008 12 November 2008 29 August 2009 Orbiter Success
Moon Impact Probe 14 November 2008 14 November 2008 Impactor Success
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter 18 June 2009 23 June 2009 ongoing Orbiter Success
Shepherding spacecraft (LCROSS) 9 October 2009 9 October 2009 Impactor Success (near observation of Centaur impact)
Centaur upper stage (LCROSS) 9 October 2009 9 October 2009 Impactor Success
Mission (2010–Present) Launch Arrival at Moon Termination Objective Result
Chang'e 2 1 October 2010 5 October 2010 9 June 2011 Orbiter Success (on extended mission to asteroid 4179 Toutatis)
ARTEMIS Spring 2010 April 2011 Orbiter Success (two probes from the THEMIS mission orbiting Earth were diverted to the Moon in 2010)
Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory 10 September 2011 1 January 2012 17 December 2012 Two orbiters/impactors Success
Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) 7 September 2013 6 October 2013 18 April 2014 Orbiter Success
Chang'e 3 6 December 2013 14 December 2013 ongoing Lander Success
Yutu ongoing Rover Partial success (encountered operational difficulties after the first Lunar night)

Future missions

Name Estimated launch Elements Notes
(Private) Astrobotic Technology NET 2015 Lander, rover First scheduled launch of a private lander, rover and moon payload competing for various prizes including the Google Lunar X Prize.[37]
Chang'e 4 2016 Rover Back-up to Chang'e 3
Chandrayaan-2 2016–7 Orbiter, lander, rover Orbiter to carry five payloads, three new, while other two are improved versions of those on Chandrayaan-1. All the three orbiter, lander and rover will be designed and manufactured by India according to the latest ISRO press-release.
EM-1 2017 Orion Unmanned test flight of Orion interplanetary spacecraft, which would pass the Moon on a free return trajectory.
Chang'e 5 2018[27] Sample return Chinese lunar sample return mission consisting of a 2 stage lander and an orbiter for collection of lunar samples.
EM-2 2019 Orion Manned test flight of Orion spacecraft, which would orbit the Moon in the first mission of its kind in decades.
Luna-Glob 2019 Lander Lander to explore the polar regions of the Moon, as well as testing landing technologies.[38]
Chang'e 6 2020 Sample return Chinese lunar sample return mission consisting of a 2 stage lander and an orbiter for collection of lunar samples.
Luna-Glob 2021 Orbiter Orbiter to include astrophysics experiments, dust monitors, plasma sensors, including the LORD astronomy payload, designed to study ultra-high-energy cosmic rays.[38]

Under study

Name Estimated
Elements Notes
(Private) Shackleton Energy Company 2016 Lander, Rover Robotic precursor exploration rover to "identify and characterize the nature, composition and locations of the optimum ice concentrations at the north and south pole craters".[39]

See also


  1. ^ A. Aaboe, J. P. Britton, J. A. Henderson,  
  2. ^  
  3. ^ Sarma (2008), Astronomy in India
  4. ^ O'Connor, J.J.; Robertson, E.F. (February 1999). "Anaxagoras of Clazomenae". University of St Andrews. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  5. ^  
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "The Galileo Project". Retrieved 2007-09-14. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Needham, Joseph (1986). Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and Earth. Science and Civilization in China 3. Taipei: Caves Books. p. 227; 411–416.  
  8. ^ Hayashi (2008), Aryabhata I
  9. ^ a b Langermann, Y. Tzvi (1985). "The Book of Bodies and Distances of Habash al-Hasib".  
  10. ^ Hershenson, Maurice (1989). The Moon illusion. Routledge. pp. 9–10.  
  11. ^ Toomer, G. J. (December 1964). "Review: Ibn al-Haythams Weg zur Physik by Matthias Schramm". Isis 55 (4): 463–465.  
  12. ^ Van Helden, A. (1995). "The Moon". Galileo Project. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  13. ^ Энциклопедия для детей (астрономия). Москва: Аванта+. 1998.  
  14. ^ Boese, A. (2002). "The Great Moon Hoax". Museum of Hoaxes. Retrieved 2007-04-12. 
  15. ^ Special Message to the Congress on Urgent National Needs Page 4 - John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum
  16. ^ LEK Lunar Expeditionary Complex
  17. ^ DLB Module
  18. ^ "Kaguya (SELENE)". JAXA. Retrieved 2007-06-25. 
  19. ^ "SMART-1 Impacts Moon". ESA. 4 September 2006. Archived from the original on 2006-10-25. Retrieved 2006-09-03. 
  20. ^ David, Leonard (4 March 2003). "China Outlines its Lunar Ambitions". Retrieved 2006-03-20. 
  21. ^ "Technological advancements and promotion roles of Chang’e-3 lunar probe mission". Sci China Tech Sci 56 (11): 2702. 2013. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ "Chandrayaan-1 Scientific Objectives". Indian Space Research Organisation. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ "India sends probe on to the Moon". BBC. November 14, 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-16. 
  26. ^ Lunar Missions Detect Water on Moon
  27. ^ a b "China plans to launch Chang'e 5 in 2017". Xinhuanet. Dec 16, 2013. 
  28. ^ Staff Writers (2004-11-04). "Competition heating up for Moon exploration". IOL. Retrieved 2008-01-25. 
  29. ^ Staff Writers (2006-08-03). "Japan Plans Moon Base By 2030". Moon Daily. SpaceDaily. Retrieved 2006-11-17. 
  30. ^ Covault, Craig (2006-06-04). "Russia Plans Ambitious Robotic Lunar Mission". 
  31. ^ news, Spiegel (2007-02-28). "Germany plans own Moon mission". 
  32. ^
  33. ^ NASA - Metric Moon
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Google Sponsors Lunar X PRIZE to Create a Space Race for a New Generation". X PRIZE Foundation. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 
  36. ^ Gwynne Shotwell (2014-03-21). Broadcast 2212: Special Edition, interview with Gwynne Shotwell (mp3) (audio file). The Space Show. Event occurs at 12:00–13:30 and 27:10–28:15. 2212. Archived from the original on 2014-03-22. Retrieved 2014-03-22. 
  37. ^ "SpaceX Lands Contract To Fly To Moon". Aviation Week. 2011-02-08. Retrieved 2011-02-08. Pittsburgh-based Astrobotic Technology, a Carnegie Mellon University spin-off company, has signed a launch services contract with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) for a Falcon 9 rocket to deliver a lander, small rover and up to about 240 lb. of payload to the surface of the Moon 
  38. ^ a b Anatoly Zak (2014-08-28). "Russian Moon missions face three-year delay". Retrieved 2014-09-22. 
  39. ^ Shackleton Energy's cislunar economic development plans David Livingston interview with James Keravala, The Space Show, 14 Dec 2012, at 55:25-57:40, accessed 2012-12-22.

External links

  • Lunar mission timeline - NASA
  • Recent Lunar missions - NASA
  • Exploring the Moon - A history of lunar discovery from the first space probes to recent times
  • Another Hit to Hoax:Traces of Man on Lunar Surface
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