How many countries have been to the moon?
Last Updated: 8th July 2020
Since the moon is our closest celestial neighbour, it has naturally been the main target for many space missions completed by a few countries from around the world. Moon exploration has come a long way since Russia’s first lunar probe reached the Moon, or since the first American astronaut set foot on its surface. We are now approaching the beginning of a new era where mankind could start building a colony on the moon within the next decade.
This requires close international collaboration where countries can share resources, technologies and experiences on the ground. But so far, how many countries have successfully completed a mission to the moon? To date, a total of 5 nations and 2 political unions that have orbited or soft-landed on the moon, as part of manned or unmanned missions.
As of June 2020.
Which countries have been to the moon?
The USA - 32 completed missions
The United States undoubtedly won the space race. NASA made history during the Apollo 11 mission when the first-ever man walked on the moon in 1969. The United States has made a major contribution to human exploration of the Moon through the Apollo programme. Between 1964 (Ranger 7) and 2018 (TESS flyby), 32 missions were carried out by the United States. Of these missions, 6 were manned missions: Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17 for a total of 12 astronauts who walked on the Moon. NASA is planning humanity’s return to the moon in 2024 through the Artemis program. We hope to see the first woman walk on the moon within the next few years…
Moon rover being used during the Apollo 15 mission.
The Soviet Union - 23 completed missions
The Soviet Space Program was the first organisation to have reached the moon with the Luna 2 spacecraft in 1959. It was the 6th attempt by the Soviets to impact the moon, which demonstrates the will and motivation they had to achieve this feat at the time. Many believe that this event was the main trigger for the real start of the space race. The Soviet space program was indeed a pioneer in space exploration and many of their cosmonauts became famous, such as Yuri Gagarin and Valentina Tereshkova. In total, the USSR has carried out 23 missions to the Moon, but to date, it has never landed a cosmonaut on the Moon’s surface.
China - 7 completed missions
The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) began in 2007 with the launch of the Chang’e 1 lunar probe. The main objective of the mission was to create a super-accurate 3D map of the moon. In December 2019, China became the third country to make a soft landing on the moon, thanks to the “Yutu” rover. In total, China has completed 7 lunar missions and plans to send humans to the moon around 2030. The most notable mission was Chang’e 4: the rover/lander that made a historic landing on the far side of the Moon in January 2019, where no humans or robots had ever been before.
Chang’e 4 landing on the moon. Courtesy: CLEP / CNSA
Japan - 2 completed missions
1990 – Japan’s first lunar probe was called HITEN (translate to Celestial Maiden) and was sent in January 1990! Its mission was to deliver a little satellite called Hagoromo near the moon as well as testing different technologies designed for lunar and planetary exploration.
2007 – A second mission to the moon was completed by the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in 2007. A three-part spacecraft named SELENE (Selenological and Engineering Explorer) orbited the moon for a little more than a year and a half while studying its origin, its surface, its geology, and its gravity.
Luxembourg - 1 completed mission
2014 – The “4M mission” (Manfred Memorial Moon Mission) was mandated by private company LuxSpace and its primary objective was to simply perform a flyby of the moon. The spacecraft was launched in October 2014 and easily completed its mission in about 4 days, before sending its last transmission a month later.
European Union - 1 completed mission
2003 – SMART-1 was a small probe designed and built by the Swedish Space Corporation on behalf of the European Space Agency. The mission’s objective was to test new technologies such as solar-electric propulsion and communication techniques. After orbiting the moon for 3 years, the spacecraft was then crashed into the surface, ending its 3 years mission.
India - 1 completed mission
2008 – Chandrayaan-1 was the very first lunar probe sent by India back in 2008. Its main goals were to gather more information about the moon’s geology and topography. The mission lasted for 10 months and played an instrumental role in the discovery of water molecules on the moon
Frequently Asked Questions
Which country was the first to reach the moon?
The Soviet Union was the very first political union to reach the moon with the spacecraft “Luna 2” in 1959. A historic feat that probably helped trigger the space race between Russia and the United States.
How many countries have landed humans on the moon?
To date, only one country has succeeded in landing humans on the moon: the United States of America. As part of the Apollo space program, the United States has landed a total of 12 astronauts.
How many countries have made a soft landing on the moon?
So far, only three countries have succeeded in soft-landing a spacecraft on the moon: the United States of America, Russia and, more recently, China.
Welcome to StarLust.org
Hey! I’m Tom Urbain, the founder of StarLust.org. I have been obsessed with space from a very young age. When I’m not binge-watching space documentaries, movies or TV shows, I can be found in my backyard, carefully collimating my telescope… ready to observe the universe!
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