man on moon

How Many Humans Have Been To The Moon?

In total, 24 people have been to the moon and 12 have walked upon its surface. Every lunar landing was part of the Apollo Program, which lasted from 1968 to 1972. The most famous of these missions was Apollo 11 in 1969, which carried the first humans to walk on the surface of the moon. The Apollo missions were part of the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States of America. In 1961, the Soviet Union was the first country to send a man into orbit around Earth. In response to this, the United States vowed to send the first humans to the moon, igniting what would become the Space Race.

People Who Landed On The Moon

Apollo 11
Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the moon during Apollo 11. Image credit: NASA

Neil Armstrong landed on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission in July of 1969. He is well known for saying the words, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Accompanying him on the moon's surface was Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin. Aldrin is the astronaut in most of the photos taken on this mission as well as the second person to walk on the moon. Another mission in November of 1969, Apollo 12, allowed for two more people to walk on the moon. Charles Conrad and Alan L. Bean spent over a day on the surface during this mission.

The next mission to land on the moon was Apollo 14 in January of 1971, when Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchel landed on the moon's surface. The most notable aspect of this mission was the two golf balls Shepard hit with a makeshift golf club. 

Apollo 15 followed Apollo 14 in July of the same year. For the first time, astronauts had access to a lunar roving vehicle. The two astronauts who landed on the moon during this mission were David Scott and James Erwin. This mission marked the start of a more scientific approach to moon landings. Apollo 16 was the fifth mission to land on the moon. John Young and Charles Duke spent three days on the moon's surface during this mission in 1972.

The final and most recent moonwalk was in December of 1972. Apollo 17 marked the end of the Apollo Program and marks the last time a human walked on the moon. Gene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt were the two members of this mission to walk on the moon. Schmitt was a geologist and was selected for this mission due to public pressure on NASA to send a scientist to the moon. 

People Who Orbited The Moon

Apollo 11
Image of the lunar lander of Apollo 11 with the Earth in the background, taken by Micheal Collins. Image credit: NASA

On each of these missions, there was a third crew member who remained in orbit while the other two conducted experiments on the moon’s surface. For the first moon mission, this person was Michael Collins. Collins was garnered the nickname of "the loneliest man in the universe", as one of the images taken by him included every human being in existence as the Apollo 11 lander and the Earth were suspended in a single frame. Apollo 12 had Richard F. Gordon remain in orbit. He orbited the moon 45 times during this mission. 

Apollo 13 was scheduled to land on the moon, however, due to an oxygen tank failure a couple of days into the mission, it was aborted. Instead of landing on the moon, the astronauts orbited the moon and then and returned home. Luckily, the whole crew, comprised of Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, and Fred Haise survived this unfortunate malfunction.

Apollo 14 had Stuart Rosa wait in orbit while the rest of the crew landed on the surface. He orbited 34 times throughout this mission. Apollo 15 marked Alfred Warden orbiting 74 times around the moon. Warden performed a spacewalk that remains one of the three deepspace spacewalks in history. All three of these happened during the Apollo missions. The purpose of these spacewalks was to retrieve film cassettes from the exterior cameras on the spacecraft. Ken Mattingly remained in orbit duirng the Apollo 16 mission. He orbited 64 times before returning to Earth. He also performed the second deep space spacewalk for the same reasons as Warden. Ronald Evans performed the third and final deep space spacewalk. He holds the record for the most time spent in lunar orbit at 147 hours and 43 minutes. This is equal to orbiting the moon 75 times.

It has been over 50 years since the last humans both orbited and walked on the lunar surface. Thankfully, NASA plans on sending humans back to the moon sometime this decade, with the eventual hope of constructing habitats on the moon's surface for longer periods of exploration. 

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