Of the 111 lunar missions in the last seven decades, 62 were successful, 41 failed and eight achieved partial success, according to the US space agency NASA’s database on Moon missions.
India on Friday launched its third mission to the Moon, Chandrayaan-3, with an aim to soft land on the surface of Earth’s only natural satellite. A successful landing would make India the fourth country to achieve the rare feat after the United States, China and the erstwhile USSR.
According to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the technically challenging soft landing on the lunar surface, which Chandrayaan-2 could not achieve, has been planned for 5.47 pm on August 23.
Former ISRO chairman G Madhavan Nair said the success rate of lunar missions is nearly 50 per cent because of the uncertainties when the rockets leave Earth’s gravitational field.
“The influence of other planets, from the Sun, is quite a bit. A lot of radiation conditions exist in space and this leaves some equipment or components prone to failure. In India’s both missions (Chandrayaan 1 and 2), we have precisely reached the moon’s orbit,” Nair told PTI.
From 1958 to 2023, India as well as the US, the USSR (now Russia), Japan, the European Union, China and Israel have launched different lunar missions – from orbiters, landers and flyby (orbiting the Moon, landing on the Moon and flying by the Moon).
The first mission to the Moon – Pioneer 0 – was launched by the US on August 17, 1958, though it was unsuccessful. Six more missions were launched by the USSR and the US in the same year, but all failed.
Luna 1, launched by the USSR on January 2, 1959, achieved partial success. It was also the first ‘Moon flyby’ mission.
The Ranger 7 mission launched in July 1964 by the US was the first to take close-up pictures of the Moon.
The first lunar soft landing and first pictures from the lunar surface came from Luna 9, launched by the USSR in January 1966. Five months later, in May 1966, the US successfully launched a similar mission named Surveyor-1.
The Apollo 11 mission in July 1969 was the landmark expedition through which humans stepped onto the lunar surface for the first time. The three-crewed mission was headed by Neil Amstrong.
From 1958 to 1979, only the US and the USSR launched Moon missions. In these 21 years, the two countries launched 90 such space expeditions.
There was a lull in the decade that followed with no lunar missions from 1980-89.
Japan, the European Union, China, India and Israel were late entrants.
Japan launched Hiten, an orbiter mission in January 1990. This was also Japan’s first Moon mission. After that, in September 2007, Japan launched Selene, another orbiter mission.
There were six lunar missions from 2000-2009 – Europe (Smart-1), Japan (Selene), China (Chang’e 1), India (Chandrayaan-1) and the US (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and LCCROSS).
Since 1990, the US, Japan, India, the European Union, China and Israel have collectively launched 21 lunar missions.
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)