Since Neil Armstrong’s first landing, other countries have since sent their own missions to explore the Moon. Over the past 15 years, here are the unmanned missions to the moon or its orbit.
China really wants to see the Moon up close
China has been aggressive in moon exploration. Since 2007, it has sent a total of six missions:
- Chang’e 1 (2007) served as a test mission to orbit the moon,
- Chang’e 2 (2010) checked the Moon’s far side for viable landing spots,
- Chang’e 3 (2013) sent a rover which landed and surveyed the Moon surface
- Chang’e 5’s test vehicle (2014) served as a test mission for the actual Chang’e 5,
- Queqiao (2014) is a communication satellite to relay radio signals that won’t reach the far side of the moon.
- Chang’e 4 (2019) is the first lander to touch the far side of the moon.
USA was far from idle
While not aggressive as China, the United States has been active in moon exploration as well. The country sent three lunar missions over the past 15 years. These missions are done to capture moon measurements such as lunar gravity and to survey the lunar atmosphere and dust.
Back in 2009, the US spacecraft Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) proved the existence of water on the Moon’s poles.
The past 15 years also welcomed some newcomers:
- SMART-1 (2003) is Europe’s first mission to the Moon,
- Chandrayaan-1 (2008) is India’s first shot at moon exploration,
- Kaguya (2007) is Japan’s second mission to explore the Moon
While relatively close to our planet, the Moon still has a lot of mysteries that need to be unveiled. With the enthusiasm on moon exploration shown by multiple countries, we’re definitely on our way to uncovering each of these mysteries one by one.