Since the times immemorial humans have created numerous theories about the Moon. Some believed it to be the goblet of flame, while others imagined it as the huge glass that depicts the Earth. In Ancient Greece in its turn, philosophers understood even back then that the Moon rotates around the Earth and reflects the sunlight. They also thought that the dark circles on the Moon’s areas were like seas of the Earth, and the bright spots were like the land. We still call it like these, marias – for dark craters, and terrae – for land.
The first notes and observations about the Moon were made by famous scientist and astronomer Galileo Galilei. According to the records from 1609 the Moon is uneven, rocky surface, and not the seamless glossy perfectly shaped round.
The first proven information about the Moon surface was brought to us by the series of scientific researching spacecraft from the Soviets back in 60s. After this, the US also made an input into such research and also sponsored some unmanned missions to the Moon in order to research its surface. Lots of the attempts to get the sample to research were never successful. Some time after, these samples eventually brought success. The scientists could make suggestions about the composition of its surface and history of its formation. The investigating missions from the US were called Pioneer, Surveyor and Ranger. The Soviet Union launched Zond and Luna. The first impact was made by Luna 2 in 1959, while the first lunar landing was done by Luna 9 in 1966.
The US also participated in this lunar race, and sent its spacecrafts in 1960s-70s. The first lunar US mission wad made in 1968 with Apollo 8 mission. By this time the spacecraft reached lunar orbit. In 1969 the first people landed on the Moon with Apollo 11 mission. This episode is the most famous and important in the human-space history. After this there were other Apollo series missions, among them Apollo 13 that didn’t reach the Moon. These five missions provided more than 800 lbs of lunar material for the research. Up until nowadays the Moon is still the only one space object visited by human being. Scientists still examine these lunar rocks material brought from these missions. Lots of new information becomes available with the advancement of technology, for instance the materials from the latest Apollo missions were researched in 2013 and the water was found in this samples, though it wasn’t present in other samples.
The robotic exploration of the Moon was very profitable and successful, however, manned missions continued in 70s as well. Soviet Union was really active in robotic exploration, while Apollo missions were continued. The first lunar samples mission that brought success was in 1970 in Sept, previous ones failed. Two months after, Soviet Union launched their robotic Lunokhod 1, then the second version Lunokhod 2 was working for more than 40 years, starting in 1943. It is one of the long-lasting robotic rover in the world, the first one is Mars Opportunity who lasted few more years.
The US exploration was on the break for 10 years, and was continued in 90s holding unmanned missions Lunar Prospector and Clementine. The aim of both missions was to explore the surface regarding possible water in its composition. These suggestions turned out to be correct in 2009 with the help of LRO and LCROSS. In 90s, lots of other countries has also progressed to the point to lead their own space programs. For example, Japanese Hiten mission occurred in 1990.
The first European mission occurred in 2003, named SMART-1. China continued in 2007 with its Chang’e, Indian Chandrayaan-1 was in 2008 but broke in 2009. In 2013, China made a historical event. Landing robotic rover on the lunar surface.
2011 was a very important year for space history, as LRO brought back amazingly detailed map of the lunar surface, which included even the places of crashes and numerous craters. Later in 2017 NASA’s radar has foundCahndarayaan-1 spacecraft that was broken earlier in 2009.
Another interesting project provided by NASA are Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory: it researched lunar gravity field, and the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer project that also hugely contributed into lunar researches.
In 2014 there was the first mission not sponsored by government or nations, but solely private. Private landings on the Moon are mainly focused on researching the depths of the Moon, however it is always accompanied by legal issues of ownership rights.