Lunar Exploration

According to Kruschov's son, his father had agreed to accept John Kennedy's proposal of a joint USSR/USA program to reach the Moon, but Kennedy was assassinated before this could be formalised, and Lyndon Johnson never repeated the offer.



August 1958 Able 1 this proposed lunar probe exploded after 77 seconds of flight

Jan 1959 Lunik 1 an attempt to reach the moon, but it missed by about 6000 km. Both sides had had several launch failures prior to this.

Sept 1959 Lunik 2, the first probe to hit the Moon. It was tracked to the Moon by Jodrell Bank radio telescope in Britain, which was the only way to verify that it had actually reached the Moon (at one stage, both the USSR and America had been seriously considerinf exploding a nuclear bomb on the Moon to show that they had actually reached there). It actually hit the Moon at 07:30 GMT on 14. Sep. 1959, east of the Mare Serenitatis in region of the craters Aristides, Archimedes und Autolycus. Weight of Lunik 2 was 390,2 kg.

Oct 1959 Lunik 3 went into barycentric orbit , and sent back the first pictures of its dark side.

April 1962 Ranger 4, the first Ranger to hit the Moon (the previous three had failed for various reasons), but a computer failure meant that no scientific data was returned.

Feb 1964 Ranger 6, No images were returned because of a camera failure.

July 1964 Ranger 7, first 'succesful' Ranger mission - it transmitted pictures in the minutes leading up to its (planned) crash landing. A month later, the IAU named the area in which it landed Mare Cognitum.

Feb 1965 Ranger 8, Sea of Tranquility. As for Ranger 7, it transmitted pictures in the minutes leading up to its (planned) crash landing.

March 1965 Ranger 9, Alphonsus Crater. Likewise, as for Rangers 7 and 8, it transmitted pictures (which were shown on live TV) in the minutes leading up to its (planned) crash landing. This was a more scientific mission than previous Rangers which were more to do with research for space missions.

July 1965 Zond 3 Fly by mission. It was launched from an Earth orbiting platform towards the Moon. On July 20, during lunar flyby, 25 pictures of very good quality were taken of the lunar farside from distances of 11,570 to 9,960 kilometers, covering an area of 19 million square kilometers. After the lunar flyby, Zond 3 continued space exploration in a heliocentric orbit.

October 1965 Lunik 7 crashed (unplanned) in the Sea of Storms

December 1965 Lunik 8 also crashed (unplanned) in the Sea of Storms

Jan 1966 Lunik 9 the first soft-landing - in the Oceanus Procellarum. It transmitted television pictures from the Moon's surface, although Jodrell Bank managed to release the pictures before the Soviet Union themselves.

March 1966 Lunik 10 was the first probe to orbit the Moon. During its 57-day life Lunik 10 made 460 lunar orbits and transmitted 219 broadcast back to Earth. It was able to deduce that the surface was basaltic, by using a gamma ray spectrometer.

May/June 1966 Surveyor 1 the first soft-landing of an American probe. It landed near the Flamsteed crater in the Ocean of Storms. Produced the first color pictures from the surface.

August 1966 Lunar Orbiter 1 413 photos of the surface

August 1966 Lunik 11 entered lunar orbit on 28 August

September 1966 Surveyor 2 Crashed on the Moon on 22 September 1966, southeast of Copernicus Crater. Its Vernier engine failed to ignite

October 1966 Lunik 12 entered lunar orbit on 25 October

November 1966 Lunar Orbiter 2 Apart from photographic survey, it carried out tests on lunar gravitation and micrometeorites, as well as radiation. Famously took photos of Copernicus.

February 1967 Lunar Orbiter 3 Re-examined various areas identified from the surveys of the previous two Orbiters as possible landing sites.

April 1967 Surveyor 3 Landed in the Oceanus Procellarum (Ocean of Storms)

May 1967 Lunar Orbiter 4 The three previous missions having apparently identified landing sites, the mission of this probe was of a more fundamental scientific nature. Whereas thef first three Orbitors went into equatorial orbit, no 4 and 5 followed polar orbits.

July 1967 Surveyor 4 Lost communication 2.5 minutes from touchdown in the Sinus Medii

August 1967 Lunar Orbiter 5 Backed up material gathered from the first two missions.

September 1967 Surveyor 5 Landed in the Mare Tranquillitatus (Sea of Tranquility). Designed to scientically analyse the surface. It sent back 18,006 TV pictures. The surface was determined to be basalt (apparently similar to basalt found in Greenland).

November 1967 Surveyor 6 Landed in the Sinus Medii.

January 1968 Surveyor 7 Scientific mission (as opposed to a mission detected to future space missions). It was sent to the Tycho crater (North Rim).

March 1968 Zond 4 entered lunar orbit but had to be destroyed because of a technical error.

September 1968 Zond 5 Circumlunar - returned to Earth. All the animals on board survived.

November 1968 Zond 6 Circumlunar - it returned to earth but the landing went wrong, depressurizing and crashing, killing all the animals who were on board.

Dec 1968 Apollo 8

  • Orbited the moon over the Christman period

  • It was actually in lunar orbit for 20 hours, with 10 orbits.

  • Live TV broadcasts were transmitted.

  • Crew was : Frank Borman, commander James Lovell, command module pilot and William Anders, who is designated the lunar module pilot, but this was a fairly nominal designation.

May 1969 Apollo 10

  • Orbited the moon at a height of about 190 km.

  • It was in lunar orbit for 61.6 hours, with 31 orbits.

  • Tested the landing module which was flown to with 15 km of the surface.

  • The crew was as follows : Commander: Thomas Stafford, Command module pilot: John Young, Lunar module pilot: Eugene Cernan.

  • When separated, the Command Module had the code-name "Charlie Brown" and the Lunar Module was called "Snoopy".

July 1969 Lunik 15 was launched three days before Apollo 11, on 13 July, and was designed to recover some moon rock robotically. It made 52 revolutions of the moon, but crash-landed on 21 July at 15h 51 UT in the Mare Crisium.

July 1969 Apollo 11, the first manned landing.

  • Launched 16 July 1969

  • The crew members were : Neil Armstrong, commander; Michael Collins, command module pilot; Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot.

  • Landed on the Moon on 20 July 1969 in the Sea of Tranquility

  • The initial landing site was seen to be unsuitable, so they landed some distance away.

  • They stepped on to the moon after being on the surface for six and a half hours.

  • The astronauts walked on the moon for 2 hours, 31 minutes.

  • Their actual stay on the moon lasted 21.6 hours.

  • 59.5 hours was spent in lunar orbit, with 30 orbits.

  • 22kg of moonrock was collected.

  • Returned to Earth 24 July 1969

Nov 1969 Zond 7 Circumlunar - returning to Earth.

Nov 1969 Apollo 12

  • Landed on the Ocean of Storms.

  • Crew members were : Pete Conrad, commander; Dick Gordon, command module pilot; Alan Bean, lunar module pilot.

  • Its landing was extremely accurate.

  • They retrieved parts of the unmanned Surveyor 3, which had landed on the Moon in April 1967.

  • Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Package (ALSEP) deployed.

  • 31.5 hours was spent on the Moon

  • It was in lunar orbit for 89 hours, with 45 orbits.

  • 34.4kg of material was gathered.

  • Color TV was supposed to be transmitted, but the camera was destroyed almost immediately by being pointed at the Sun.

Sept 1970 Lunik 16 which did recover about 100 grams of moon rock (by this time, America had gathered several kilos). Landed in the Sea of Fertility

October 1970 Zond 8


Returned to Earth on 27 Oct 1970

Nov 1970 Lunik 17 deposited the moon rover Lunokhod, which functioned for about a year (it was only originally expected to last for about 3 months) It covered a distance of 10.540 m taking more than 20.000 pictures and over 200 Panoramas (photographing an area of over 80 000m2, as well as carrying out 500 soil probes.

Jan 1971 Apollo 14

  • The landing site was Fra Mauro (Mare Imbrium area).

  • Crew members were : Alan Shepard, commander; Stuart Roosa, command module pilot; Edgar Mitchell, lunar module pilot.

  • ALSEP and other instruments deployed.

  • 67 hours was spent in lunar orbit, with 34 orbits.

  • They were on the moon for 33.5 hours.

  • 2 moonwalks were made, totalling 9 hours, 25 minutes.

  • 42 kg of material was gathered, using a hand cart for the first time to transport rocks.

  • Shepard smuggled aboard a golf club, and took a swing which was claimed at the time to go an extremely long distance, although somewhere between 200 and 400 meters would probably be more accurate.

July 1971 Apollo 15,

  • Landed in the Hadley-Apennine region, near the Apennine Mountains (Mare Imbrium).

  • Crew members were : David Scott, commander; Alfred Worden, command module pilot; James Irwin, lunar module pilot.

  • It was billed as the first 'scientific' mission

  • They found samples of the original moon surface (up until then all that had been recovered was basalt, which is of volcanic origin). The rock they brought back has become known as the Genesis Rock, and is composed of anorthosite - for this to have formed the Moon would have needed to be have been completely molten.

  • 3 moonwalks were made, totalling 10 hours, 36 minutes.

  • First mission to carry orbital sensors in service module of CSM.

  • ALSEP deployed. Scientific payload landed on Moon doubled.

  • Improved spacesuits allowed increased mobility and stay-time.

  • On the lunar surface for 66.9 hours.

  • The Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV), electric-powered, 4-wheel drive car, covered a total distance of 28 km.

  • In lunar orbit for 145 hours, with 74 orbits.

  • A small sub-satellite was left in lunar orbit for first time.

  • 6.6 kgs of material was gathered.

  • Worden performed 38 minutes of EVA (Extra-Vehicular Activity) on the way back to Earth.

September 1971 Lunik 18 Was supposed to have brought lunar samples back to Earth, but it crashed in the Sea of Fertility

September 1971 Lunik 19 Went into orbit about the Moon and became the first probe to seriously carry out a photographic survey of the Moon.

February 1972 Lunik 20 It landed a mountainous area - the Apollonius-Highlands, about 120 km from where Luna 16 crashed. It took panoramic TV pictures from the landing site, and bore samples from the surface. A return stage took off on 22. February 1972 landing back in the USSR on 25. February 1972, with 30 kg of samples.

April 1972 Apollo 16,

  • Landing site: Descartes Highlands.

  • Crew members were : John Young, commander; Ken Mattingly, command module pilot; Charles Duke, lunar module pilot.

  • The first study of highlands area.

  • An ultraviolet camera/spectrograph used for the first time on the Moon

  • A Lunar Roving Vehicle was again used.

  • Stayed on the moon for 71 hours.

  • In lunar orbit for 126 hours, with 64 orbits.

  • 95.8 kg of lunar samples were collected.

  • Mattingly performed 1 hour of in-flight EVA.

Dec 1972 Apollo 17,

  • Crew members were : Gene Cernan, commander; Ron Evans, command module pilot; Harrison Schmitt, lunar module pilot. (Schmitt was purely a geologist - the first scientist-astronaut to land on the Moon)

  • Landed in the Taurus Littrow Valley.

  • 3 moonwalks, totalling 22 hours, 04 minutes.

  • Evans performed trans-Earth EVA lasting 01 hour 06 minutes.

  • Sixth automated research station set up.

  • Lunar Roving Vehicle covered at total of 30.5 km.

  • They stayed on the lunar surface for 75 hours.

  • In lunar orbit for 17 hours.

  • 110.4 kg of material was gathered.

  • Whilst visited the crater Shorty, they found orange soil, which was of volcanic origin, but ancient.

January 1973 Lunik 21 Carried Lunokhod 2, landing in the Crater LeMonnier. Lunokhod 2 was 135 cm tall, 170 cm long and 160 cm wide - it weighed 840 kg. It traveled at 1-2 km/h. Its eight wheels were each driven and braked independently from the other wheels. It travelled only during the lunar 'day', stopping occasionally to recharge its solar batteries. During the lunar 'night' (approximately 14 earth days long), it 'slept', its apparatus being kept warm by a Polonium 210 isotope battery. Lunokhod 2 operated for about four months, covered 37 km during this time and sent back 86 Panorama-Pictures as well as over 80.000 TV pictures. It carried instruments for measuring X-rays and Ultra-Violet radiation, as well as a Astrophotometer, a Magnetometer, a Photodetector and a Laser Reflector. The mission was officially brought to an end on 4. June 1973, although the Rover had possibly stopped functioning from the end of May.

May/June 1974 Lunik 22 Orbited the moon for 18 months, carrying out various experiments.

October/November 1974 Lunik 23 Heavily damaged by a crash in the Mare Crisium. It functioned for about three more days, but many of its instruments had already been disabled.

August 1976 Lunik 24 It landed on 18. August 1976 in the Mare Crisium, only a few hundred meters away from where Luna 23 came down. It was the third Soviet mission to bring test samples from the surface back to Earth - 170 grams was returned with the aid of a drill capable of boring down to 2 meters.

1994 Clementine Miltary mission which astronomers also made some use of (the science seems to have been used to mask the 'true' nature of the mission). It observed the polar regions especially which had not been investigated as much as the rest of the surface. It claimed that ice had been found in the bottom of some of these polar craters.

1998 Lunar Prospector Launced in January, by March it was officially announced that it had detected ice on the Moon, as had been suspected by Clementine. This ice had been detected at both the North and South poles. It was decided to test this theory by crashing Prospector into a lunar crater - this was done on 31 July 1999 but the results do not appear to be encouraging for the thoery.