Apollo 17 mission Commander Eugene Cernan checks out the lunar roving vehicle (LRV) at the Taurus-Littrow landing site in December 1972. LRVs, also called moon buggies, are electric vehicles designed to expand astronauts' range of exploration on the low-gravity surface of the moon. The east end of the moon's South Massif rises in the background at right.
A brief history of moon exploration
In the 1950s, the Cold War sparked a race to visit Earth's moon with flybys, robots, and crewed missions. Here's what we discovered—and what's next.
For as long as humans have gazed skyward, the moon has been a focus of fascination. We could always see our cosmic partner’s mottled, cratered face by eye. Later, telescopes sharpened our views of its bumps, ridges, and relict lava seas. Finally, in the mid-20th century, humans visited Earth’s moon and saw its surface up close.
Since then, a volley of spacecraft have studied our nearest celestial neighbor, swooping low over its dusty plains and surveying its curious far side. Now, after six decades of exploration, we are once again aiming to send humans to the lunar surface.
The earliest forays into lunar exploration were a product of the ongoing Cold War, when the U.S. and Soviet Union sent uncrewed spacecraft