As part of human exploration of the Moon, numerous space missions have been undertaken to study Earth's natural satellite. Of the Moon landings, Luna 2 of the Soviet Union was the first spacecraft to reach its surface successfully, intentionally impacting the Moon on 13 September 1959. In 1966, Luna 9 became the first spacecraft to achieve a controlled soft landing, while Luna 10 became the first mission to enter orbit.
Between 1968 and 1972, crewed missions to the Moon were conducted by the United States as part of the Apollo program. Apollo 8 was the first crewed mission to enter orbit in December 1968, and was followed by Apollo 10 in May 1969. Six missions landed men on the Moon, beginning with Apollo 11 in July 1969, during which Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the Moon. Apollo 13 was intended to land, however it was restricted to a flyby due to a malfunction aboard the spacecraft. All nine crewed missions returned safely to the Earth.
While the United States focused on the crewed Apollo program, the Soviet Union conducted uncrewed missions that deployed rovers and returned samples to the Earth. Three rover missions were launched, of which two were successful, and eleven sample return flights were attempted with three successes.
Missions to the Moon have been conducted by the Soviet Union, United States, European Space Agency, Japan, India, People's Republic of China and Israel. The Moon has also been visited by five spacecraft not dedicated to studying it; four spacecraft have flown past it to gain gravity assistance, and a radio telescope, Explorer 49, was placed into selenocentric orbit in order to use the Moon to block interference from terrestrial radio sources.
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