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Landing on the Moon


This article is published in collaboration with Statista

by Martin Armstrong


On September 14, 1959, The Soviet Union's Luna 2 spacecraft became the first man-made object to make contact with the Moon - slamming into its surface and completing its lunar impactor mission. After that momentous achievement, the USSR shifted its focus away from impactors, and eventually became the first country, in 1966, to successfully complete a soft landing on the Moon. A few months later, NASA's Surveyor 1 became the first U.S. spacecraft to conduct a soft lunar landing - a mission which paved the way for the manned Apollo missions and eventually Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin becoming the first humans to set foot on the celestial body's surface.


Despite the USSR's early space race dominance, the United States is still to this day the only country to have successfully landed humans on the Moon - having done so another five times after the famous Apollo 11 mission. Having fallen down the priority list of most space agencies since the heights of the sixties, landing on the Moon has come back into focus in recent years. China became the first country to soft land a spacecraft on the 'dark' or 'far' side of the Moon, when the Chang'e 4 lander touched down and deployed the Yutu-2 lunar rover in December 2018.


India is the only other country to have landed on the moon by way of an impactor or lander mission (others have done so but only as the final stage of an orbiter mission, crashing down onto the surface with self-destruction their only objective). After orbiting the Moon for 312 days, Chandrayaan-1 deployed a moon impact probe in November 2008, releasing underground debris that, after analysis by the orbiter, confirmed the presence of water. The mission also made India the first to complete a hard landing on the lunar south pole.


Off the back of this success, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) turned its attention to a soft lunar landing. In September 2019, Chandrayaan-2 crashed during a landing attempt, with the orbiter remaining operational. The country's next attempt is due to launch tomorrow, July 14, and if all goes well, is expected to land in August this year.


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