American astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first person to set foot on the Moon. Armstrong, along with two other American astronauts, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, was launched towards the Moon on July 16, 1969, as part of the Apollo 11 mission.
On July 20, 1969, Armstrong, who was the mission commander, and Buzz Aldrin, the lunar module pilot, landed the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle on the Moon.
The mission was “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind”. To commemorate the anniversary of the first landing on the lunar surface by humans, International Moon Day is observed worldwide on July 20.
A total of 12 humans have walked on the Moon so far. The missions which carried humans to the lunar surface are Apollo 11, Apollo 12, Apollo 14, Apollo 15, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17. The last time humans travelled to the Moon was in 1972.
NASA’s Artemis Project, the first human mission to the Moon since 1972, aims to carry the first woman, and the first person of colour to the lunar surface, by 2024.
Here is the list of all the missions as part of which humans walked on the Moon.
The Apollo 11 mission was the first crewed landing on the Moon. Three astronauts were launched towards the Moon atop a Saturn V rocket. Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins deployed instruments on the Moon, captured photographs, and collected samples.
In an address at Rice University on September 12, 1962, then United States President John F Kennedy had informed the public about his goal to land a man on the Moon before 1970. “We choose to go to the Moon,” he had said. In less than a decade, the Apollo 11 mission was launched, sending the first humans to the Moon.
The Apollo 12 mission launched astronauts Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr, Apan Bean, and Richard F Gordon Jr towards the Moon on November 14, 1969. The astronauts blasted off towards the Moon atop a Saturn V rocket.
Just after launch, the Apollo 12 spacecraft was struck twice by lightning. Though this temporarily knocked out electrical power, the problems did not stop a successful mission.
The goals of Apollo 12 included investigation of the lunar surface environment, and enhancement of the capability for human lunar exploration.
The Apollo 12 crew deployed an instrument package and collected more than 34 kilograms of samples, captured photographs of the lunar surface, collected samples of the solar wind, and investigated soil mechanics.
They also retrieved parts of the robotic Surveyor 3 spacecraft that had previously landed on the lunar surface.
The crew performed extravehicular activities (EVA) totalling nearly eight hours, and remained on the lunar surface for more than 31 hours.
Apollo 12 marked the first time human explorers met up with a robotic spacecraft in space, and was also the first crewed lunar mission with science as the primary objective.