With the success of Indian mission Chandrayaan-3 today, a fourth nation has reached the moon in a soft landing. The U.S. and the USSR both touched down on Earth’s satellite in 1966 for the first time, while China followed in 2013. The U.S. remains the only nation that has walked on the moon, but that too could change in the future, as the race for the moon is starting anew.
Several countries and private companies have announced lunar missions. Our graphic gives a rundown of these. Given the uncertainties of space flight, the dates may be subject to change.
A new launch is coming up quickly this August still, as the Japanese space agency Jaxa is sending a small lander on its way. The rest of the year is getting even more busy with two companies out of NASA's Commercial Lunar Payload Services program, Astrobotic Technology and Intuitive Machines, launching first missions, carrying among a variety of payloads, NASA’s Lunar Trailblazer moon orbiter, Dogecoin’s miniature moon satellite, international rovers and memento projects. A third grantee, Masten Space Systems, has been absorbed by Astrobotic.
A 2024 mission by this company will carry NASA’s new rover, Viper. The U.S. will also start crewed flights again next year, which are expected to lead to a new person on the moon by 2025. Crewed flights and landings by Russia and China have been announced for 2029 and 2030, respectively. Further 2024 missions are SpaceX's expected demo of its crewed lunar tourist orbital flight and a new launch from China.
NASA and ESA are scheduled to begin work on a space station in lunar orbit in 2025 and the EU is expected to start researching resources utilization on the moon that year. Israeli company SpaceIL is making a new landing attempt in 2025 after a first mission failed and a new Roscosmos flight is still further down the line in 2027.
The past years of the new race for the moon have also not been short of failed missions. While SpaceIL crashed in April 2019 and the Indian space agency ISRO in July of that year with Chandrayaan-2, Japan’s iSpace lost its lander in 2022 together with the UAE’s Rashid rover which was also on board. On Sunday, Russia’s attempt to make a soft landing as part of its new lunar program failed.