Which Countries Have Landed a Spacecraft on the Moon Through 2024?

With Japan successfully landing the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) on the moon, they are the 5th country to ever land (soft landing) an unmanned aircraft on the moon. To celebrate this amazing accomplishment, let’s take a look at the 5 countries that have made the journey to the moon.

*Note: For this article, we are only looking at countries that have completed a soft landing on the moon. A soft landing is a controlled and gentle touchdown of a spacecraft or lander on the Moon’s surface. On the contrary, a hard landing refers to a situation where a spacecraft or lander makes contact with the Moon’s surface with a significant amount of impact force. A hard landing can greatly reduce the chances of the mission’s success, as it can render scientific instruments inoperable or cause other critical failures. Eight nations and one governmental entity have successfully launched spacecraft that have had a hard landing on the moon: USA, The Soviet Union, China, India, Japan, the United Arab Emirates, Israel, Luxembourg, and the European Space Agency (ESA).

The Soviet Union

On top of being the first country to complete a hard landing, the Soviet Union was also the first country to successfully complete a soft landing on the moon. On February 3, 1966, The Luna 9 completed the first controlled landing on another celestial body. Over the next two days, the spacecraft sent back three pictures of the lunar landscape. The Luna 9 allowed scientists to construct a stereoscopic view of the landing site and determine the distances to various rocks and depressions. The last communication with the spacecraft was on Feb. 5, 1966. In total, the Soviet Union completed 8 successful lunar landings with the last being on August 19, 1976.

luna 9 spacecraft
Luna 9 (Wesley T Huntress)

List of All Successful Soviet Lunar Landings

  • Luna 9: February 3, 1966
  • Luna 13: December 24, 1966
  • Luna 16: September 20, 1970
  • Luna 17: November 17, 1970
  • Luna 20: February 21, 1972
  • Luna 21: January 15, 1973
  • Luna 23: November 6, 1974
  • Luna 24: August 19, 1976

The United States (NASA)

The United States completed their first lunar landing on June 2, 1966, with the touchdown of the Surveyor 1. Once on the surface, Surveyor 1 took over 11,100 images of the lunar landscape during its six-week mission. The United States was also the first and only nation to complete a manned landing on the moon with the first being the Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. In total, the U.S. has completed 11 total controlled landings with 5 being unmanned landings and 6 being manned landings.

surveyor 1 lunar lander jpl
Surveyor 1 Lunar Lander (JPL)

List of All Successful U.S. Lunar Landings (Manned & Unmanned)

  • Surveyor 1: June 2, 1966
  • Surveyor 3: April 20, 1967
  • Surveyor 5: September 11, 1967
  • Surveyor 6: November 7, 1967
  • Surveyor 7: January 10, 1968
  • Apollo 11 (Manned): July 20, 1969
  • Apollo 12 (Manned): November 24, 1969
  • Apollo 14 (Manned): February 5, 1971
  • Apollo 15 (Manned): August 7, 1971
  • Apollo 16 (Manned): April 27, 1972
  • Apollo 17 (Manned): December 11, 1972

China (China National Space Administration)

China became the third nation to complete a controlled landing on the moon on December 14, 2013, with its Chang’e 3. Chang’e contained China’s first lunar rover: The Yutu (Jade Rabbit). The Yutu rover successfully landed and took images of the lunar surface, but its mobility system failed, leaving the rover paralyzed. One instrument, an ultraviolet telescope, remains functional on Chang’e 3. In total, China has had 3 successful lunar landings with the most recent one being in 2020.

The Yutu (National Astronomy Observatory of China)

List of All Successful China Lunar Landings

  • Chang’e 3: December 14, 2013
  • Chang’e 4: January 3, 2019
  • Chang’e 5: December 1, 2020

India (India Space Research Organization)

On August 23, 2023, India’s Chandrayaan-3 completed a soft landing in the Moon’s south polar region. The Chandrayaan-3 carried the Pragyan Rover, which spent two weeks exploring the surroundings of the landing site, studying the chemical composition of moon dust and gravel. This was India’s first successful lunar landing, but ISRO is planning more lunar missions for the near future.

chandrayaan-3 moon landing nasa science
Chandrayaan-3 (NASA Science)

List of All Successful India Lunar Landings

Japan (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency)

On January 19, 2024, Japan’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) successfully touched down on the moon. The SLIM landed within 100 meters of its target landing site, which is the most accurate lunar landing ever. Currently, JAXA is having problems with the solar panels on the rover, so it has not been able to complete its mission. This was Japan’s first successful lunar landing, but JAXA is hopeful for more lunar missions in the near future.

JAXA's SLIM rover: Lunar Exploration Vehicle-2
JAXA’s Lunar Exploration Vehicle-2 (JAXA)

List of All Successful Japan Lunar Landings

  • JAXA’s Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM): January 19, 2024

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top