This was the first successful flyby mission that caught a glimpse of the moon. This spacecraft was launched by the Soviet Union, reached the moon and gathered evidence that there wasn't a magnetic field surrounding the moon.
Luna 2, 3
The Soviets Luna 2 became the first spacecraft to land on the moon. Like Luna 1 it had a spherical shape and was equipped with an antenna. Being located on the surface of the moon, Luna 1 was able to confirm that a magnetic field and radiation belts didn't exist there. The Luna 3 probe was the first spacecraft to return images of the moon.
After three attempts to reach the lunar surface, the United States' Ranger 4 became the lucky spacecraft to do the job. However, a computer failure prevented Ranger 4 from sending any scientific data or images back to Earth. Ranger 5 ran out of power and never made it to the moon.
Ranger 6, 7
Two more attempts by the U.S. to get photos of the lunar surface were made this year. Ranger 6 landed on the moon but was unable to send any photos back before the landing because the camera had malfunctioned. Seventh time a charm? Ranger 7 launched six months after Ranger 6 and was sent back more than 4,000 good quality photos before it crashed into the moon.
Luna 9, 10
This year saw many landers and orbiters approach the lunar surface. In January, Luna 9 became the first lander to successfully perform a soft landing on the moon. There it was able to send photos, including four panorama shots and radiation data, before its battery expired. A few months later, in March, Luna 10 became the first orbiter to circle the moon. It made its way around the moon 460 times.
Surveyors and Lunar Orbiters
In September the U.S. Surveyor 1 made a successful soft landing. It brought back more than 11,000 photos and information to aid future Apollo (manned) missions. To further aid future manned missions on the moon, Lunar orbiters were sent to take photographs of the surface to seek out possible landing sites. Two orbiters (Lunar Orbiter 1 and 2) were successful in capturing those images. (NASA)
Lunar Orbiters and Surveyors
Three lunar orbiters went to the moon to take more photos of the surface. At the end of the Lunar Orbiter program, photos covering 99 per cent of the surface of the moon were taken. Four more Surveyors made attempts at soft landings on the moon and three were successful. The Surveyors had the same objectives: to support a manned crew to land safety on the moon, while collecting data that would be helpful for future Apollo missions.
Zond 5, 6
A few new missions occurred this year, such as Zond 5 and 6, two return probes. The purpose of both return probes was to fly past the moon from Earth to prepare Russia for future manned missions.
The Apollo 8 mission, a crewed orbiter, completed its objectives. It tested communication and orbit-tracking systems, took photos of possible landing sites for manned missions and tested other equipment necessary for the upcoming manned mission to the moon.
This mission was a practice mission in preparation for the Apollo 11 mission. The only difference was that they would not be stepping onto the moon. On this mission the photo of the earth peering over the lunar surface was taken. A video inside the spacecraft was also filmed and can be seen here.
Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the moon. Armstrong and his crew member, Edwin 'Buzz' Aldrin, successfully walked on the moon and returned to Earth. Michael Collins, another crew member, acted as a command module pilot and stayed in the orbiter. They also brought back lunar samples and photos.
In this mission, a second group of astronauts walked on the moon and returned safely to Earth. More lunar samples were collected.
This Apollo mission was aborted due to the explosion of an oxygen tank before the crew landed on the moon. All members aboard returned safely back to Earth.
Luna 16, a Soviet robotic probe, was the first spacecraft to collect lunar samples and bring it back to Earth.
Apollo 14, 15
Two more Apollo missions were launched this year. On Feb. 5 the astronauts landed on the lunar surface and gathered lunar samples, took photographs and set up scientific experiments. This was also when commander Alan B. Shepard Jr. hit 2 golf balls on the moon. The next Apollo mission was launched on July 26, 1971, and brought back more than 370 rock and soil samples.
Apollo 16, 17
In these two missions, the objective again was to collect lunar samples, which both crew teams did. Photographs were also taken during both missions.
Luna 21 Rover
This was the second Soviet rover to roam around the moon. During this mission the rover took photos of the lunar surface and performed mechanical tests.
Luna 22, 23
The Soviet Union sent off an orbiter (Luna 22) equipped with imaging equipment that was in orbit for 18 months, and a lander (Luna 23) that was not successful in collecting lunar samples.
Luna 24 did the job that Luna 23 was supposed to do and brought back samples from the moon.
Japan joined the space race and launched an orbiter that successfully performed a lunar flyby.
This U.S. orbiter mapped out the lunar surface and was successful in capturing images.
This communications satellite was launched by Hong Kong. Its main purpose was to provide television and telecommunication services. The satellite wasn't placed in the correct orbit and was later obtained by PanAmSat (another satellite provider based in the U.S.) and was moved to a new orbit.
This orbiter was designed to look for water ice on the lunar surface. After a year in orbit, it was purposely crashed into the moon near the south pole but was unsuccessful at detecting any water ice.
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This lunar orbiter was used to test the technology, with a focus on a solar-powered ion drive, for future spacecraft missions to the moon. SMART 1 was in orbit until Sept. 3, 2006.
Japan's Kaguya, a lunar orbiter, crashed into the moon on in order to uncover any water ice on the south pole surface. Its main mission was to get information about the moon from its geology to its mineralogical composition. It sent back images of the Earth and the moon. Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Japan Broadcasting Corporation released a moving camera shot taken 100 km away on November, 2007.
Chang'e 1, China's first probe, is the first of three planned missions to the moon. Chang'e 1 was really a pilot test orbiter to see if the equipment and technology worked. The other objectives were to acquire stereo images of the lunar surface, find helium-3 resources (to mine because it's considered a safe and clean source of nuclear energy) and inspect the lunar soil. It was successful in capturing images and exploring the surface. Chang'e 1 remained in orbit until March 1, 2009.
Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter is India's contribution to the exploration of the moon. It is supposed to stay in orbit for at least two years and has sent information back on possible sources of water ice, minerals and radiation to learn more about the origins of the moon.
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and Lunar Crater Observation Sensing Satellite
The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been on a mission to map the surface of the moon, look for resources and find future landing sites. A second spacecraft launched at the same time as the LRO, the Lunar Crater Observation Sensing Satellite, is also scouting the lunar surface looking for water ice.
(NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center/Arizona State University)