Buzz Aldrin (<i>Apollo 11</i>) on the Moon photographed by Neil Armstrong

Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11) on the Moon photographed by Neil Armstrong

Courtesy of NASA/JSC

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, poses beside the American flag during an EVA on the lunar surface. The lunar module is visible on the left.

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy set an ambitious goal for the United States—send a man to the Moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the decade (by 1969). New kinds of spacecraft and equipment needed to be developed and tested, which meant some early missions were unmanned. NASA needed a spacecraft that could reenter Earth’s atmosphere without burning up, carry three astronauts rather than one, and have two independent parts: a command module (CM) that would remain in orbit around the Moon and a lunar module (LM) that could land on the Moon, take off, and rejoin/dock with the orbiting command module. Altogether there were nearly 20 Apollo missions, some ending in catastrophe and others triumphant. Apollo 11 achieved President Kennedy’s goal when the lunar module Eagle landed on the Moon with astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on July 20, 1969, and then returned safely to Earth on July 24, 1969.

February 26, 1966 through December 7, 1972

(the Moon and other locations) February 26, 1966 through December 11, 1972

End of Mission
February 26, 1966 through December 19, 1972

Send a man to the Moon and return him safely to Earth before the end of the decade (1969).

(manned missions)

Apollo 7: October 11–22, 1968—Earth Orbit and Return

  • 10 days, 20 hours; 163 Earth orbits
  • First manned command space module, first live television from manned spacecraft
  • Astronauts: Walter M. Schirra, Jr., Donn F. Eisele, and R. Walter Cunningham

Apollo 8: December 21–27, 1968—Lunar Orbit and Return

  • 6 days, 3 hours; lunar orbit 20 hours, with 10 orbits
  • First manned lunar-orbital mission, support facilities tested, photographs taken of Earth and Moon, live television broadcasts
  • Astronauts: Frank Borman, James A. Lovell, Jr., and William A. Anders

Apollo 9: March 3–13, 1969—Earth Orbit and Return

  • 10 days, 1 hour; 152 orbits
  • First manned flight of all lunar hardware but in an Earth orbit, 37 minutes of extravehicular activities (EVA or space walking), human reactions to space and weightlessness tested in 152 orbits, first manned flight of lunar module
  • Astronauts: James A. McDivitt, David R. Scott, and Russell L. Schweickart
  • Command Module: Gumdrop; Lunar Module: Spider

Apollo 10: May 18–26, 1969—Lunar Orbit and Return

  • 8 days, 3 minutes; lunar orbit 61.6 hours, with 31 orbits
  • Dress rehearsal for Moon landing, first manned CM/LM operations in lunar environment; simulation of first lunar-landing profile, LM taken to within 15,243 m of lunar surface, first live color television from space.
  • Astronauts: Eugene A. Cernan, John W. Young, and Thomas P. Stafford
  • Command Module: Charlie Brown; Lunar Module: Snoopy

Apollo 11: July 16–24, 1969—Moon Landing in Sea of Tranquility and Return

  • 8 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes; EVA of 2 hours, 31 minutes; lunar surface 21.6 hours; lunar orbit 59.5 hours, with 30 orbits
  • First manned lunar-landing mission (“Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”) and lunar-surface EVA; flag and instruments deployed; gathered 20 kg of material; unveiled plaque on the LM descent stage with inscription, “Here Men From Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon. July 1969 A.D. We Came In Peace For All Mankind.”
  • Astronauts:Neil A. Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Edwin E. “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr.
  • Command Module: Columbia; Lunar Module: Eagle

Apollo 12: November 14–24, 1969—Moon Landing in Ocean of Storms and Return

  • 10 days, 4 hours, 36 minutes; lunar surface 31.5 hours; lunar orbit 89 hours, with 45 orbits.
  • Retrieved parts of Surveyor 3, which landed on the Moon two years earlier, Apollo lunar-surface experiments package (ALSEP) deployed, gathered 34 kg of material
  • Astronauts: Charles “Pete” Conrad, Jr., Richard F. Gordon, Jr., and Alan L. Bean
  • Command Module: Yankee Clipper; Lunar Module: Intrepid

Apollo 13: April 11–17, 1970—Lunar Flyby and Return (Moon Landing Aborted)

  • 5 days, 22.9 hours
  • Moon landing not possible after rupture of an oxygen tank, classed as “successful failure” because of experience in rescuing crew
  • Astronauts:James A. Lovell, Jr., John L. Swigert, Jr., and Fred W. Haise, Jr.
  • Command Module: Odyssey; Lunar Module: Aquarius

Apollo 14: January 31–February 09, 1971—Moon Landing in Fra Mauro and Return

  • 9 days; lunar surface 33.5 hours; 67 hours in lunar orbit, with 34 orbits; EVA 9 hours, 25 minutes
  • ALSEP and other instruments deployed; gathered 42.9 kg of materials; used handcart for first time to transport rocks
  • Astronauts:Alan B. Shepard, Jr., Stuart A. Roosa, and Edgar D. Mitchell
  • Command Module: Kitty Hawk; Lunar Module: Antares

Apollo 15: July 26–August 7, 1971—Moon Landing in Hadley-Apennine Region and Return

  • 12 days, 17 hours, 12 minutes; EVA 10 hours, 36 minutes; lunar surface 66.9 hours; lunar orbit 145 hours, with 74 orbits
  • First use of Lunar roving vehicle (LRV), electric-powered, four-wheel-drive car, traverse total 27.9 km; improved spacesuits gave increased mobility and stay-time; ALSEP deployed; scientific payload landed on Moon doubled; gathered 6.6 kg of material
  • Astronauts:David R. Scott, James B. Irwin, and Alfred M. Worden
  • Command Module: Endeavor; Lunar Module: Falcon

Apollo 16: April 16–27, 1972—Moon Landing in Descartes Highlands and Return

  • 11 days, 1 hour, 51 minutes; lunar surface 71 hours; lunar orbit 126 hours, with 64 orbits
  • First study of highlands area, selected surface experiments deployed, ultraviolet camera/spectrograph used for first time on Moon, LRV used for second time, gathered 94.7 kg of lunar samples
  • Astronauts:John W. Young, Thomas K. Mattingly II, and Charles M. Duke, Jr.
  • Command Module: Casper; Lunar Module: Orion

Apollo 17: December 7–19, 1972—Moon Landing in Taurus-Littrow Area and Return

  • 12 days, 13 hours, 52 minutes; EVAs of 22 hours, 4 minutes; lunar surface 75 hours; lunar orbit 17 hours
  • Last Apollo mission to land on Moon, Schmitt is first scientist-astronaut to land on Moon, sixth automated research station set up, LRV travels 30.5 km, gathered 110.5 kg of material
  • Astronauts:Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald B. Evans, and Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt
  • Command Module: America; Lunar Module: Challenger