Quick facts:

  • A total of twelve men have walked on the moon, all of them during six different missions as part of NASA’s Apollo program.
  • None of these astronauts visited the moon more than once.
  • After the passing of Alan L. Bean in 2018, four of them are still alive today.

There are many things about the moon that make it fascinating to everyone on earth. It is the closest celestial object to us and it is up there in the sky almost every night, almost watching. The moon’s cycles make it seem mysterious while its colors contrasting with the night sky have inspired artists troughout the history of mankind. It’s no wonder we are so curious about visiting it.

Pete Conrad during the Apollo 12 mission

On May 25, 1961, U.S. President John F. Kennedy proposed the goal of landing a man on the moon. His famous speech would later turn into the Apollo program, a decade long effort that would succeed on July 21, 1969 when Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon and said his famous quote: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.

After Neil Armstrong, eleven more astronauts walked on the moon, here’s the complete list with dates and the name of the missions.

AstronautMissionDays on the MoonYear
Neil Alden ArmstrongApollo 11July 201969
Edwin “Buzz” AldrinApollo 11July 201969
Charles “Pete” ConradApollo 12November 19 – November 201969
Alan L. BeanApollo 12November 19 – November 201969
Alan ShepardApollo 14February 5 – February 61971
Edgar MitchellApollo 14February 5 – February 61971
David ScottApollo 15July 30 – August 21971
James IrwinApollo 15July 30 – August 21971
John YoungApollo 16April 21 – April 241972
Charles Duke Jr.Apollo 16April 21 – April 241972
Eugene CernanApollo 17December 11 – December 141972
Harrison “Jack” SmithApollo 17December 11 – December 141972

Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong was born on August 5, 1930 in Ohio, U.S. He graduated from Purdue University and became a naval aviator. After this period, Armstrong joined the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics as a test pilot. This brought him one step closer to joining NASA in 1962.

His first assignment in NASA was as command pilot for the Gemini 8 spacecraft, which was launched in 1966 and performed the first docking of two vehicles in space.

After becoming the first man on the moon in 1969, Neil kept working at NASA as Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics and also worked as a professor at the University of Cincinnati.

He died on 2012 at the age of 82.

Why is there no Apollo 13 in the mission’s list?

On April 11, 1970, the Apollo 13 was launched and was originally intended to land on the moon like the previous missions, however, the lunar landing was cancelled when an oxygen tank exploded two days into the mission. After a series of difficult and heroic maneuvers, the Apollo 13 managed to return safely to earth on April 17. The crew was composed by commander Jim Lovell, command module pilot Jack Swigert and lunar module pilot Fred Haise.

How about the Apollo 1 to 10 missions?

The Apollo program unfortunately began with a tragedy when during a training test to simulate the launch of the spacecraft a fire started. Sadly, the three crew members, astronauts Virgil Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee lost their lives in the accident. This failed mission was named Apollo 1 to honor them.

For some reason, NASA decided to skip Apollo 2 and 3 and went straight to Apollo 4. The Apollo 4 to Apollo 6 missions were unmanned and were designed to test most of the components of the spacecraft as well as the Saturn V rocket. These mission occured between November 1967 and April 1968.

Apollo 7 to 10 were manned missions and served basically as rehersals for the Apollo 11 launch, with the Apollo 8 astronauts becoming the first humans to orbit the moon.

Is there video of the moon landings?

Yes, there’s plenty of footage from the various Apollo missions. The full video of the first moon landing can be found on NASA’s youtube channel and it is embedded below. The video shows the complete 2.5 hours long Extravehicular Activity (EVA) with the astronauts completing various scientific operations that included collecting rocks and soil samples, placing a device to detect “moonquakes” and setting up a laser retroreflector.

Is there proof the moon landings were real?

Over the years, some people have argued the videos of moon landings were faked. We don’t share the same opinion and we believe 100% man has set foot on the moon, but if the videos are not enough for you, there are other ways to prove it and there’s even one experiment you can do yourself (assuming you have a giant laser).

During the Apollo 11 mission, a laser retroreflector was installed on the moon’s surface by astronauts. Think of it like a mirror that is able to reflect a laser. It was set up so scientists on earth could throw a laser at it and then measure the time it took to come back. It’s a similar idea to a radar. Using the reflector we are able to exactly measure the distance from earth to the moon and precisely map its orbit. This device is still operational because it doesn’t require any power source so if you have access to a powerful enough laser and some specialized equipment you could even do the experiment yourself.

Why is Michael Jackson’s “moonwalk” called that? Do astronauts really walk like that on the moon?

In the eighties, the number one pop star in the world, Michael Jackson, popularized a difficult dance move where he would slide backwards while keeping both feet on the ground. Later he would call it the “moonwalk”.

In reality, because the moon’s gravity is about 1/6 smaller than earth’s, astronauts who walked on the moon found it way easier to move using small hops, like kangaroos. It’s still quite funny but it doesn’t resemble MJ’s moonwalk at all.

Why haven’t we gone back to the moon since 1972?

There are multiple reasons, but the main one is money. Going to the moon is too expensive. The Apollo program was an effort by the whole country to pour resources into developing it because of geopolitical and military reasons (The U.S. didn’t want Rusia to win the space race). Because we live in relatively more peaceful times, there is no pressure to put money into the space program.

China has recently announced their intentions to launch a manned mission to the moon and in early 2019 they made progress on their space program by being the first country to land an unmanned spacecraft on the dark side of the moon. The chinese program could trigger a new space race in the future if other countries feel they don’t want to be left behind.

It is also very possible the next manned mission to the moon comes from the private sector with companies like SpaceX announcing plans to at least orbit the moon.

Where to learn more

If you are interested to learn more about the astronauts who walked on the moon, the Apollo program and moon landings, we recommend you to check out the following materials:

  • Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo is a 2017 documentary about the people on mission control who made possible the moon the Apollo program from Earth.
  • From Earth to the Moon is a 1998 miniseries narrated by Tom Hanks that follows the Apollo program.
  • First Man is a 2018 movie starring Ryan Gosling depicting the life of Neil Armstrong (PG-13 rated).
  • Apollo 13 starring Tom Hanks and Kevin Bacon is an academy award winning movie based on the events of the Apollo 13 mission. It is one of the best space movies out there but it can be a bit heart-wrenching and stressful for kids (PG rated).
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