Statista says that just nine nations have been to the moon, reached its orbit, or were in its vicinity as part of successful or semi-successful missions.
Today, a new era of moon missions includes the participation of new national and private sector actors, including India and SpaceX.
The U.S. has completed 42 successful or semi-successful missions to the moon between 1959 and 2022, according to OMG Space and Statista research.
USSR (Russia) flew 22 such missions between 1959 and 1976.
China sped up its space program in the 2000s and flew its first mission of the Chang’e program in 2007 and was successful in all seven attempted missions to the moon. This includes Rover Yutu which landed on the moon in the Chang’e 3 mission in December 2018.
India successfully completed a lunar orbit and impactor mission (Chandrayaan-1) in 2008 and entered the moon orbit again in September 2019. A lander and rover mission then was only semi-successful when contact was lost with the lander which touched down hard. However, the mission’s orbiter has actually sent valuable data back to Earth for the past four years.
Finally, India became the fourth nation to make a soft landing on the moon on Aug. 23, 2023, as part of the Chandrayaan-3 mission.
Japan has currently completed five missions, three of which were flybys.
The EU sent probe Smart-1 into lunar orbit in 2003, testing solar-powered ion drive technology.
Luxembourg LuxSpace tagged a probe on the Chinese Chang’e 5-T1 mission, which flew by the moon and returned to Earth in 2014.
In 2022, the Italian and Korean space agencies completed similar missions with the help of Space X and NASA rockets.
Moon missions continue
The success of Indian mission Chandrayaan-3 yesterday makes it the fourth nation that reached the moon in a soft landing. The U.S. and the USSR both touched down on the moon in 1966 for the first time, while China followed in 2013.
The U.S. remains the only nation that has walked on the moon. That could change in the future.
Several countries and private companies have announced lunar missions.
Japanese space agency Jaxa is sending a small lander soon. Two companies out of NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, Astrobotic Technology and Intuitive Machines, are launching their first missions, carrying NASA’s Lunar Trailblazer moon orbiter, Dogecoin’s miniature moon satellite, international rovers, and memento projects.
Astrobotic is planning a 2024 mission to carry NASA’s new rover, Viper.
The U.S. will also start crewed flights again next year, which are expected to lead to a new person on the moon by 2025.
Crewed flights and landings by Russia and China have been announced for 2029 and 2030, respectively. Further 2024 missions are SpaceX’s expected demo of its crewed lunar tourist orbital flight and a new launch from China.
NASA and ESA are scheduled to begin work on a space station in lunar orbit in 2025.
Previous failed missions include SpaceIL which crashed in April 2019 and the Indian space agency ISRO in July of that year with Chandrayaan-2 failing, Japan’s iSpace lost its lander in 2022 together with the UAE’s Rashid rover which was also on board. On Sunday, Russia’s attempt to make a soft landing as part of its new lunar program also failed.
Morgan Stanley estimates that the global space industry could generate revenue of more than $1 trillion or more in 2040, up from $350 billion, currently.
This shows that man’s thirst for understanding, studying, and conquering outer space will never be quenched.
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