Monday, November 01, 2010

Of the 75 artificial objects on the moon how many weren't put there by the US and USSR?

Surveyor 3 on the moon, photographed by Alan BeanImage via WikipediaThree years ago this week, China's first lunar probe, Chang'e 1, entered orbit around the moon. Roughly 15 months later, Change'e 1 was intentionally crashed into the lunar surface (after recording the most complete and accurate 3D survey of the moon ever made), adding yet another item to the growing list of man-made objects on the moon.

Humanity has been chucking technology at the moon for over 50 years. The first human creation to contact the lunar surface was the Soviet Luna 2 probe in 1959. Since then, a total of 75 man-made objects have achieved lunar touchdown (or impact). Most of those items are of American or Soviet origin, products of the Cold War space race. Twenty years ago, Japan broke the Russo-American duopoly on lunar littering by crashing the orbiter portion of the Hiten probe on the moon. Since then, four more non-US and and non-Soviet/Russian space agencies have placed objects on the moon -- but the rest of the world has a long way to go before it overtakes the American-Russian rivalry in lunar tech-tossing.

Of the 75 artificial objects on the moon how many
weren't put there by the US and USSR?

A mere seven of the 75 man-made objects on the moon weren't put there by the Soviet Union/Russia or the United States. They are:
  1. Japan's Hiten orbiter, touched down in 1990
  2. Japan's Hiten probe, touched down in 1993
  3. The European Space Agency's SMART-1, touched down in 2006
  4. India's Moon Impact Probe, touched down in 2008
  5. Japan's SELENE Rstar, touched down in 2009
  6. China's Chang'e 1, touched down in 2009
  7. Japan's SELENE main orbiter, touched down in 2009
China launched Chang'e 2 in October of this year, so there's already another non-Russo-American candidate on its way to the moon. India and China have both professed intentions to launch manned lunar missions within the next two decades, both of which will require several preceding unmanned lunar surveys, so the list of non-American, non-Russian lunar artifacts is almost certain to grow. How long it takes this group to outrank the US and USSR/Russia in leaving crap behind on moon is anybody's guess, but it's certain to make for some selenologically scintillating examples of the Truly Trivial.

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