Be informed. Be challenged. Be inspired.

Know It All: Moon landings

Japan recently became the fifth country to land a craft successfully on the Moon. DAVID ADAMS looks at some facts and figures about that and previous landings…

Japan recently became the fifth country to land a craft successfully on the Moon. Here are some facts and figures about that and previous landings…

• The first Moon landing took place on 13th September, 1959, when the Soviet Union’s Luna 2 crashed into the Moon in what is known as a “hard” landing. It was followed by the US crashing Ranger 4 into the Moon in 1962.

The Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), is seen in this handout image taken by LEV-2 on the moon, released on 25th January, 2024. PICTURE: Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), Takara Tomy, Sony Group, Doshisha University /via Reuters

• The first “soft” landing – in which a spacecraft was successfully landed on the Moon using retrorockets to slow speed – was by the Soviet Union in 1966.

• Only five countries have made “soft” Moon landings – Russia, the US, China, India and, now, Japan, in a total of 17 missions.

• The first successful manned mission to land on the Moon was on 20th July, 1969, when NASA astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed in Mare Tranquillitatis (the Sea of Tranquility) as part of the Apollo 11 mission. Apollo 11 also returned with the first sample of lunar surface material.

• Since the first Moon landing, 10 more people – all American men – have walked on the Moon, taking to 12 the total number (in six different NASA Apollo missions). The last people to walk on the Moon were Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt on Apollo 17 in mid-December, 1972 (Cernan and Schmitt also hold the record for spending the longest time on the Moon – just under 75 hours).

• All “soft” landings on the Moon have taken place on the lunar surface’s “near” side except for one: the landing of Chinese Chang’e 4 spacecraft on the “far” side of the Moon on 3rd January, 2019

• The Earth’s Moon is not the only moon which has been landed upon –  the Huygens probe, part of the Cassini–Huygens mission to Saturn, successfully landed on the Saturn moon of Titan in 2005.

• The most recent landing on the Moon was the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM), nicknamed the ‘Moon sniper’, which landed on 20th January, 2024, within 100 metres of its target landing spot.

• Upcoming missions to the Moon include Artemis 3, NASA’s first crewed Moon landing mission since the early 1970s (and the first to go to the lunar South Pole), which is scheduled for September, 2026.

– With Reuters



sight plus logo

Sight+ is a new benefits program we’ve launched to reward people who have supported us with annual donations of $26 or more. To find out more about Sight+ and how you can support the work of Sight, head to our Sight+ page.



We’re interested to find out more about you, our readers, as we improve and expand our coverage and so we’re asking all of our readers to take this survey (it’ll only take a couple of minutes).

To take part in the survey, simply follow this link…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

For security, use of Google's reCAPTCHA service is required which is subject to the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.