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There are several ways to characterize lunar landings: manned, unmanned, hard, and soft. Many people focus on the manned missions of the past century are not even aware that unmanned missions have been on the surface within the last year(2009).
The first of numerous lunar landings took place in 1959. Luna 2 was the first spacecraft to reach the Moon’s surface. It was launched by the Soviet Union and impacted east of Mare Serenitatis close to Aristides. Ranger 7 was the first successful American lunar landing, but did not occur until 1964. The years between 1959 and 1969 saw dozens of unmanned Moon impacts and orbital missions, but the best remembers lunar landings are the six manned missions operated by NASA beginning in July of 1969.
Apollo 11 was the first of the six successful manned lunar landings. Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969. To date there have only been 12 humans to walk on the lunar surface. The last manned mission to the Moon occurred on December 7, 1972. All of the manned missions to date occurred over a 41 month period that was marked by great enthusiasm and pride.
While no human was walked across the lunar surface in more than three decades, there have been several countries that have made unmanned lunar landings. The Japaneses lunar orbiter was intentionally crashed into the Moon’s surface in 1993. the European Space Agency performed a controlled crash on its lunar orbiter in 2006. India sent Chandrayaan-1 to explore the lunar surface in 2008. China crashed an orbiter into the surface on 2009. The United States got back into the lunar shenanigans in 2009(a few months after the Chinese) by launching an orbiter craft to the Moon in order to prepare for manned missions in the future. The ultimate goal(only theoretical at this time) is to built an outpost similar to the International Space Station on the lunar surface.
We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Moon Exploration. Listen here, Episode 114: The Moon, Part 2: Exploration of the Moon.