How many people have walked on the moon?
As exclusive clubs go, walking on anything other than planet Earth is pretty amazing. So far, only 12 people have walked on the moon.
Humans have gone into space before and after, but only a very small and select group of humans have actually reached what is essentially an alien world, albeit a small one.
Earth’s only natural satellite is about 23,640 miles (380,500 kilometers) away, just a stone’s throw away in galactic terms.
Related: How NASA’s Artemis Moon Landing Works With Astronauts (opens in new tab)
It was in 1962 that US President John F Kennedy commissioned his country an astronaut on the Moon with the famous speech“We’re choosing to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they’re easy, but because they’re hard.”
The backdrop for this groundbreaking achievement was the US Cold War”space race“competition with the Soviet Union, which itself had become the first nation to have a man – Yuri Gagarin – in space. Whoever went to the moon first would seriously brag.
And it was in 1969 that the groundbreaking first walk on the moon took place, with Neil Armstrong the first to make a footprint and utter the words “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”.
There are a total of 24 people who made the trip – all Americans – while the other 12 have been left behind on various spacecraft.
The list of astronauts who walked on the moon during the Apollo era are:
- Neil Armstrong (Apollo 11)
- Buzz Aldrin (Apollo 11)
- Charles “Pete” Conrad (Apollo 12)
- Alan Bean (Apollo 12)
- Alan Shepard (Apollo 14)
- Edgar Mitchell (Apollo 14)
- David Scott (Apollo 15)
- James Irwin (Apollo 15)
- John Young (Apollo 16)
- Karel Duke (Apollo 16)
- Eugene Cernan (Apollo 17)
- Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17)
What is it like to walk on the moon?
One of the most striking things about walking on the moon is its low gravity. The moon’s gravity is about 1/6th that of Earth, meaning you’d weigh about 16% of what you’re doing here, and could jump about six times higher than you can on Soil.
Walking on the moon makes you feel much lighter and you are struck by the sharp colors due to the very thin atmosphere. Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, described walking there as “not too far from a trampoline, but without the bounce and instability.”
He described the moon’s surface as a “beautiful desolation,” covered in powder and with a pitch-black sky. The earth seemed so small that it could be blocked by holding your thumb against it.
“My most vivid memory of the moon is its beauty. The stark contrast between the brilliant gray of the moon and the blackness of space. The gray was so bright it was almost white – a sharp break between the surface and the horizon. The sun was always shining, so you didn’t see any stars or planets,” said Apollo 16 astronaut Charlie Duke Forbes (opens in new tab).
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Setting foot on the moon had symbolic meaning, but walking is not very practical if you have a lot to do and not much time.
So the invention of the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV) was a real game-changer for manned missions.
First used by Apollo 15 in 1971, the electric vehicle was lightweight and designed to operate in lowgravity vacuum of the moon. It could be folded for flight and unpacked once the crew landed.
The rover could travel nearly 10 miles per hour (16 kilometers per hour) and had a range of about 55 miles (89 km).
Future missions to the moon
It’s been a long time since humans went to the moon, but NASA’s Artemis program is designed to return humans to the moon and also to land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface. It will work with commercial and international organizations to establish a permanent base on the moon, which it will use as a springboard for an eventual mission to Mars.
NASA’s original goal was to reach the moon again in 2024, but the date has been shifted to no earlier than 2025.
For more information on moon landings see “Apollo’s Legacy: Perspectives on the Moon Landings (opens in new tab)” by Roger D Launius and “Earthrise: how humans first saw the earth (opens in new tab)by Robert Poole.
- nasa, “Who has walked on the moon? (opens in new tab)“, July 2020.
- Sarah Loof, “Overview Apollo 11 mission (opens in new tab)NASA, January 2022.
- National Air and Space Museum, “Apollo 11 (opens in new tab)consulted in September 2022.
- The European Space Agency, “Lunar Exploration – ESA’s Missions (opens in new tab)consulted in September 2022.
- nasa, “Artemis (opens in new tab)consulted in September 2022.
- nasa, “The Apollo programconsulted in September 2022.
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