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Five key dates in lunar exploration
2007-10-24 08:55

January 2, 1959: Sphere-shaped Soviet spacecraft Luna 1 becomes the first spacecraft to orbit the moon. A series of similarly successful Soviet launches follow, with Luna 2 becoming the first manmade craft to crash into the moon on September 14, 1959.

April 26, 1962: The US spacecraft Ranger 4, designed to transmit pictures of the moon's surface back to earth before impacting the surface, becomes the first US spacecraft to crash into the moon.

Feburary. 3, 1966: The Soviet Union's Luna 9 makes the world's first soft landing on the moon's surface in the Ocean of Storms. It is also the first to transmit photographic data back to earth, providing a panoramic view of the moon's surface.

July 20, 1969: US astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin land on the moon. Armstrong, the first to set foot on the lunar surface. Twelve astronauts walked on the moon in the US space agency's Apollo program, the last in 1972.

January 24, 1990: A cylindrical Japanese spacecraft, Hiten, carries a small satellite into space to test and verify technologies for future missions to the moon and planets. It is intentionally crashed into the lunar surface on April 10, 1993. Japan returns to the moon in 2007, with the Selenological and Engineering Explorer, which began orbiting the moon last week.


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