1. ITV Report

Soft moon landings through the decades

Survey depiction. Photo: NASA

China has successfully carried out the world's first soft landing of a space probe on the moon in nearly four decades.

The Soviet Union was the last probe to have done so in 1976. There have only been 12 successful soft landings since the first achievement in January 1966.

A soft landing occurs when a spacecraft lands at a sufficiently low velocity for the equipment to remain undamaged.

Here is a full list of soft landings on the moon:

  • January 1966 - The Soviet Union's Luna 9 was the first spacecraft to achieve a lunar soft landing and to transmit photographic data from the Moon's surface to Earth.
Luna 9. Credit: NASA
  • May 1966 - Surveyor 1 was the first spacecraft launched in the Surveyor program and the first soft landing on the Moon by the United States.
  • December 1966 - The Soviet Union's Luna 13 spacecraft was launched toward the Moon from an earth-orbiting platform and accomplished a soft landing on December 24, 1966, in the region of Oceanus Procellarum.
  • April 1967 - US's Surveyor 3 was the second spacecraft of the Surveyor series to achieve a lunar soft landing.
  • September 1967 - US Surveyor 5 was the third spacecraft in the Surveyor series to achieve a successful lunar soft landing and the first mission to obtain in-situ compositional data on the Moon. The primary objectives of the Surveyor program, a series of seven robotic lunar soft landing flights, were to support the coming crewed Apollo landings.
  • November 1967 - US Surveyor 6 was the fourth of the Surveyor series to successfully achieve a soft landing on the Moon.
Surveyor 7. Credit: NASA
  • January 1968 - US Surveyor 7 was the fifth and final spacecraft of the Surveyor series to achieve a lunar soft landing.
  • September 1970 - Luna 16 was the first robotic probe to land on the Moon and return a sample to Earth and represented the first lunar sample return mission by the Soviet Union and the third overall, following the Apollo 11 and 12 missions.
  • November 1970 - Luna 17 was launched from an earth parking orbit towards the Moon and entered lunar orbit on November 15, 1970. The spacecraft soft landed on the Moon in the Sea of Rains.
Luna 24 Credit: NASA
  • January 1973 - The Luna 21 spacecraft landed on the Moon and deployed the second Soviet lunar rover (Lunokhod 2).
  • August 1976 - The last of the Luna series of spacecraft, the mission of the Luna 24 probe was the third Soviet mission to retrieve lunar ground samples.
Chang'e 3. Credit: NASA
  • December 2013 - Chang'e 3 or the 'Jade Rabbit' is a Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) lunar landing mission designed to study the Sinus Iridum area of the Moon with a small rover.

Source: NASA