Even today, the historic Apollo 11 mission that landed men on the Moon for the very first time remains one of the most famous, ground-breaking achievements in space exploration. And even though space technology has improved significantly since then, we still celebrate this day — mostly because there weren’t many astronauts on the Moon after Apollo 11.
Soon enough, this should change as NASA is actively preparing for Artemis — a new lunar mission that would land more men (and women) on the Moon to build a permanent base on its surface. But before we get there, let’s recall just how many men have walked on the Moon so far.
One cannot describe the journey of men on the Moon without saying a few words about Apollo 11. On July 21, 1969, mission Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon’s surface, saying the famous phrase about a small step for a man and a giant leap for mankind — a phase everyone knows today. Shortly, Buzz Aldrin, who called our satellite a ‘gorgeous desert,’ followed Armstrong, while pilot Michael Collins remained in the command module. This is how Armstrong and Aldrin became the first men on the Moon, but they would not be the last.
A few months later, on November 19, 1969, two more men successfully landed on our satellite’s surface. NASA astronauts Pete Conrad and Alan Bean spent 31.5 hours on the Moon, almost eight of which were moonwalks. Similar to Apollo 11, this Moon mission was supposed to be transmitted back to Earth, but sadly, astronauts damaged their camera equipment before landing.
TV companies decided to simulate the picture while running a live sound with astronauts’ voices in the background. This little trick did not go unnoticed, and Orbital Today believes that it was this TV deception that gave rise to all Moon conspiracy theories, claiming that no man really landed on the Moon’s surface, and that it was all a publicity stunt from the US government.
A total of six Apollo missions successfully landed men on the Moon, and each time, two astronauts walked on our satellite’s surface. We already described the first two missions above. Apollo 13 failed because of an accident onboard, so this mission’s crew never made a Moon landing. Fortunately, all men returned to Earth safe and sound. After this minor setback, four more Apollo missions followed in a row, and each of them was a success.
So, let’s do some simple math to answer — how many men have walked on the Moon? A total of six missions with two astronauts making a landing each time gives us exactly a dozen men. So, who all has walked on the Moon? Here are the names of the lucky twelve men to have walked on our natural satellite:
1. Neil Armstrong, Apollo 11 (July 21, 1969)
2. Buzz Aldrin, A11
3. Pete Conrad, Apollo 12 (November 19–20, 1969)
4. Alan Bean, A12
5. Alan Shepard, Apollo 14 (February 5–6, 1971)
6. Edgar Mitchell, A14
7. David Scott, Apollo 15 (July 31 – August 2, 1971)
8. James Irwin, A15
9. John Young, Apollo 16 (April 21–23, 1972)
10. Charles Duke, A16
11. Eugene Cernan, Apollo 17 (December 11–14, 1972)
12. Harrison Schmitt, A17
After Apollo 17, NASA decided to curtail the program because its scientific value was low compared to its skyrocketing cost. While astronauts collected lunar rock and soil samples that were required of them based on mission goals, a single Apollo launch was estimated in billions of dollars — an enormous burden for the US government and US taxpayers. Besides, landing men on the Moon has already boosted US’s space prestige and finally gave the US a ‘Space Race upper hand’ over the USSR.
So, has no other country landed men on the Moon besides the US? No, even though several, including USSR, China, India, ESA Member states, and relatively recently — Israel, have sent robotic missions to our satellite’s surface.
For almost half a century, it seemed that Apollo 17 was the last mission to have sent the last person on the Moon, but not any longer. NASA is in full swing preparing for a new lunar exploration mission, Artemis, and this time, the US does not plan to play alone. Several space organizations and private companies from different countries are working together on this new 21st-century lunar exploration mission.
This time, men will not be the only astronauts to apply — NASA fully intends to welcome women and has already started training its female astronaut applicants for Artemis. Besides, NASA’s new Moon mission should eventually welcome astronauts from national minorities and maybe even men and women with disabilities. In other words, NASA’s new moon mission is in tune with 21st-century non-discrimination values, which is why men and women of Earth hold their breath, waiting for the breakthrough to happen.