The dream for many is to become an astronaut one day. Whilst according to NASA being an astronaut doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have gone into space, most of them have. But going into space, which is a feat unto itself, doesn’t mean that you’ve been anywhere near the moon.
So whilst there’s almost 600 astronauts and cosmonauts that have made the long trip into space, relatively few of them have made it to the moon. Just how many you ask? Well, that’s what we’re going to look at now, as it’s one of the more interesting astronaut facts.
How many astronauts have been to the moon?
In total, there are twelve different astronauts that have actually set foot on the moon. This of course includes Neil Armstrong, who was the first man to actually walked upon its surface.
Whilst many others have made the journey into space and have even been in orbit of the moon, only 11 others have actually touched its surface. As well as Neil Armstrong, this includes;
- Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin (1930-) – Buzz was the other astronaut also upon Apollo 11 that took him and Neil Armstrong to the moon. Buzz is well known as the “second man on the moon”, a nickname that he’s come to dislike over the years. But along with Neil, he’s probably the only astronaut that’s a household name across the globe.
- Charles “Pete” Conrad (1930-1999)— The third man to step across the moon’s surface, Charles Conrad was aboard the sixth Apollo mission, Apollo 12. Conrad has been an astronaut for 7 years at the time he eventually got to the moon, and had been aboard the Gemini 5 mission into space 7 years earlier.
- Alan Bean (1932-2018) – Unlike Conrad, Alan Bean’s first journey into space was aboard Apollo 12, the second Apollo spacecraft to land on the moon. However, Bean did get the opportunity to fly into space for a second time on the Skylab 3 mission, which was a 3-astronaut mission to America’s first space station, Skylab.
- Alan B. Shepard Jr. (1923-1998) – You may recognize Shepard’s name already, as he was actually the first American to travel into space. This was after cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin became the first human in space, part of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. He travelled to the moon on Apollo 14.
- Edgar D. Mitchell (1930-2016) – The other astronaut on the Apollo 14 mission was Edgar Mitchell. He was actually due to be on Apollo 13, but he was delayed by his partner Shepard, who needed more time to train. Interestingly enough, Mitchell actually helped Apollo 13 back to Earth safely after there was issues with its landing.
- David R. Scott (1932-) – As the commander of Apollo 15, David R Scott is one of the few astronauts that’s actually been into space on three different occasions, and he’s the only commander of any mission that’s still living.
- James B. Irwin (1930-1991) – As David Scott’s partner on the Apollo 15 mission, James B Irwin became the first vehicle passenger on the moon after he and Scott took the Lunar Roving Vehicle for a spin.
- John W. Young (1930-2018) – John Young had a long and esteemed career as an astronaut, and he became the 9th man to walk on the moon aboard the Apollo 16 mission. He also was in orbit of the moon on the Apollo 10 mission, as well as being involved in both the earlier Gemini missions and the later Space Shuttle.
- Charles M. Duke (1935-) – Also involved in the previous Apollo 10 mission, Charles Duke didn’t get to walk on the moon himself until the 6 year later Apollo 16 spacecraft made its way there. Like many other astronauts, Duke became a born again Christian after coming back to Earth.
- Eugene Cernan (1934-2017) – Apollo 17 was the most recent mission that took a man to walk on the surface of the moon. Eugene Cernan is probably best remembered as the man who wrote his daughters initials in the moon’s dust all the way back in 1972.
- Harrison H. Schmitt (1935-) – Also on the Apollo 17 mission, Harrison Schmitt was a geologist as well as an astronaut, after studying his Masters in Oslo and completing a further PhD in Harvard in 1964. Eight years later and Schmitt capped his career as the most recent person to land on the moon.
Have any cosmonauts been to the moon?
The list above is made up of all NASA astronauts that were Americans at the time of their launch. Whilst America made it to the moon first, they were actually behind the Soviet Union when it came to reaching space, as the SU managed to make it there in April 1961 (Alan Shepard followed soon after in May 1961).
But after the astronauts beat the cosmonauts to walking on the moon first, they gave up hope. This, amongst a whole host of other reasons, including potential rivalries between leading figures in the Soviet space program, are why cosmonauts are yet to make it there.
Why haven’t we been to the moon since?
We haven’t been to the moon since 1972. We’ve had a ton of major scientific and technological revelations since then. But NASA still hasn’t sent another mission back there.
We haven’t been back mainly due to budgetary reasons, but reasons can vary depending who you ask. But many agree that much of the driving factor behind NASA’s launch to the moon in the first place was from competition with the Soviet Union to get there. However, NASA’s Artemis mission is intended to go back to the moon in 2024, so we will be there fairly soon at least.
Whilst we now know that Jeff Bezos is planning on flying into space in 2021, it surely won’t be long before there’s a private battle between Bezos’ company Blue Origin and Musk’s SpaceX to get a man back on the moon.
So, we know that in total 12 people have been to the moon and actually stepped on its surface. An additional 12 people have been in orbit of the moon, but not been given the opportunity to actually stand on it.