Numerous missions have been undertaken by various space agencies to Earth’s only natural satellite, the Moon, but less than 60 percent of those missions have been successful. According to NASA’s ‘Moon Fact Sheet’, 109 lunar missions were undertaken from the 1950s until April 2019. Of those, 60 were successful while 49 were classified as unsuccessful or as a partial success.
From 1958 to 2019, India, Japan, China, the U.S., the USSR (now Russia), the European Union, and Israel have launched lunar missions, including orbiters, landers, and flyby missions. The first successful mission to the Moon was Luna 1 by the USSR on January 4, 1959. Until November 1959, the only successful missions were launched by the USSR.
The Ranger 7 mission, launched by the U.S. in July 1964, was the first to take close-up pictures of the Moon. The three-crewed Apollo 11 mission was the first in which humans stepped on to the lunar surface. There was a lull in the decade that followed with no lunar missions from 1980-89.
Japan launched its first Moon mission in January 1990. It did not launch another until its Selene orbiter mission in September 2007. There were five other lunar missions from 2000-2009 – one each by China, India, and Europe, and two by the U.S. From 2009-2019, ten missions have been launched – five by India, three by the U.S., and one each by India and Israel.
The past year has seen two unsuccessful moon missions. In February, Israel launched its Beresheet lunar mission, but it crash landed in April. The Beresheet mission was the first lunar landing attempt by a private company. This month, India’s Chandrayaan-2 Moon mission did not go to plan as the scientists lost contact with its Vikram lander shortly before it reached the lunar surface. The Beresheet mission was included in NASA’s data, while the Chandrayaan-2 mission was not.