The Moon

Earth has one moon (also called a natural satellite). It’s the only other place in the solar system people have visited outside the Earth. Not counting orbiting the Earth in man-made satellites!

Moon landing sites for Apollo missions marked on a photo of the Moon.

The big picture shows the landing sites for NASA’s Apollo missions from 1969 to 1972. Each mission landed two astronauts, so 12 people have walked on the surface of the Moon. Apollo 11 was the first to actually land, so the numbers in the picture start at 11.

Apollo 15 lunar module with lunar rover and astronaut Irwin.

Some of the Moon missions had a special car called a Lunar Rover, like this one at Apollo 15’s landing site. Some people call them Moon buggies! The astronauts left them behind when they came back to Earth, so Tanno and Iguda were able to find one. With no atmosphere on the Moon, the lunar rovers haven’t rusted at all.

Images credits: NASA and NASA/ Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualisation Studio

Moon factfile 
Position from the sunorbits 3rd planet
Diameter 3,475 km
Distance from EARTH384,400 km
Day length 27.3 days
Time for orbit 27.3 days
Number of moons0
Surface temperature-130 °C to +120 °C
Surface gravity1.62 m/s2
AtmosphereNone*
*FUN FACT: The Moon actually has an exosphere: about as many gas molecules as a loaded dump truck, which fall to the ground at night, and kick up and bounce around during the day! Mostly the exosphere is argon, helium and neon gases.

Apollo 11 was the first to finally land on the Moon, but there were earlier missions, including two that went there, orbited a few times, and came back without landing. The bigger picture above only shows the actual landing sites, not all the missions. Apollo 13 did not land – they had a problem on board and returned to Earth under emergency conditions. You can read about all the missions on Wikipedia. Click here!

Activity

NASA sts076 mission patch

The astronauts on each NASA mission get to help design the patch for their mission. Like this example for a space shuttle mission in 1996. The picture in this patch was based on a design drawn by astronaut Michael Clifford’s 9-year-old son. (Image credit: NASA)

Often the mission patches have the names of the astronauts on them, but not every time. The patches are worn by the astronauts themselves, and also by anyone connected with the mission.

Imagine you and two friends are going on a new mission to the Moon and design your own patch for the mission. Think about what might be special about your mission. What are you looking for? What experiments will you do on the Moon? What does your rocket look like? You could include these things in your patch design.

The Moon in 3D, use your mouse to turn it and make it bigger and smaller.

Credit: NASA Visualization Technology Applications and Development (VTAD)