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Walking on the moon was one of mankind’s greatest technological feats and NASA’s biggest success story. We all know about the very first successful landing and the two astronauts who first set foot on the moon, Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong. But they were not the last astronauts to walk on the moon and go further than most humans have ever traveled. So, how many men have walked on the Moon?
Including the first two astronauts 12 men have walked on the moon. Looking at the development of the Apollo program it is not surprising. The entire Apollo program was a study in the gradual progression of technology until a successful moon landing and return. The first Apollo missions dealt with actually getting to the moon and coming back. Up until the Apollo 11 mission, no astronauts landed on the moon. They simply flew to it, did a flyby and returned. After the successful Apollo 11 mission of course the feat was repeated several times.
NASA launched 6 successful mission in all to the moon. The last was in 1972. There is very interesting information concerning these twelve astronauts. First off they are among only 24 people to actually see the far side of the moon. Second there were other famous astronauts other than Armstrong and Aldrin. Alan Shepard the commander of the Apollo 14 mission was the second man and first American in space. His mission was also the first to be broadcast in color television.
Apollo 17 was the last mission to the moon. The three astronauts on this mission were Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt. Their mission was also the first night launch occurring at midnight. Cernan and Schmitt became the very last astronauts to walk on the moon.
Another question that would probably be raised is if the lunar landings were so successful why didn’t NASA or other nations plan more missions? The simple answer is lack of resources. The Apollo program at its peak cost 24 billion dollars. Even now the current NASA budget is only half of that amount. On top of that, the United States was going through a major recession in the latter half of the seventies so NASA had a curtailed budget and limited political will to launch any more missions. The Soviet Union was the only other government capable of a similar feat but they had already decided against the expenditure. The eventual collapse of the Soviet Union put a permanent end to any possibility of an attempt by a foreign government at the time.
If you enjoyed this article there are others on Universe Today that you will like. There is a great article on the Space Race. There is also a great article on Russian Cosmonauts.
You can also check out Astronomy Cast. Episode 114, The Moon, Part 2 is about the history lunar exploration.
NASA: Which astronauts walked on the Moon?
NASA: What Was the Apollo Program?