Sept. 12, 1959: Soviet Union launches Luna 2, first probe to impact moon.

Oct. 4, 1959: Soviet Union launches Luna 3, which returns first photos of moon's back side.

July 28, 1964: The United States launches Ranger 7, which returns over 4,000 close-up photos as it plunges toward lunar surface.

Jan. 31, 1966: Soviet Union launches Luna 9, which returns first TV pictures from lunar surface.

March 31, 1966: Soviet Union launches Luna 10, the moon's first artificial satellite.

May 30, 1966: US launches Surveyor 1, which returns over 11,000 TV pictures of lunar surface.

Aug. 10, 1966: US launches Lunar Orbiter 1, which maps 23 million square miles of surface from lunar orbit.

Dec. 21, 1966: Soviet Union launches Luna 13, which carries instruments to measure soil density and gamma-ray emissions to analyze the lunar surface.

Sept. 14, 1968: Soviet Union launches Zond 5 - the first man-made object to return from circumnavigating moon - with cargo of tortoises, mealworms, wine flies, bacteria, plants, and seeds.

Dec. 21, 1968: US launches Apollo 8 (without lunar landing module) to orbit moon 10 times and return to Earth. Astronauts Frank Borman, James A. Lovell Jr., and William Anders come within 70 miles of lunar surface.

May 18, 1969: US launches Apollo 10 for full dress rehersal of moon landing. Astronauits Thomas P. Stafford and Eugene Cernan fly landing module to within 9.4 miles of surface, while John W. Young orbits in ``mother ship'' command module.

July 13, 1969: Soviet Union launches Luna 15, which orbits moon.

July 16, 1969: US launches Apollo 11 on first manned lunar expedition. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. reach lunar surface July 20, while Michael Collins remains in command module. Luna 15 plunges to moon's surface two hours before Armstrong and Aldrin leave moon after 21.6 hours on the surface.

Sept. 12, 1970: Soviet Union launches Luna 16, first robot to return lunar soil samples.

Nov. 10, 1970: Soviet Union launches Luna 17 with first remote-controlled robot moon-rover to study soil samples.

Dec. 7, 1972: US launches Apollo 17, last of the manned lunar expeditions.

Aug. 18, 1976: Soviet Union launches Luna 24, which returns first core samples from lunar surface.

Jan. 24, 1990: Japan launches Hiten earth satellite, a test vehicle with a small lunar orbiter (Hagoromo) on board. Hagoromo entered lunar orbit March 18, 1990. Hiten itself entered lunar orbit Feb. 15, 1992 and crashed on the moon April 10, 1993. These tests signaled Japan's intention to begin lunar exploration.

Jan. 25, 1994: US launches Clementine craft, which enters lunar orbit Feb. 21. It returns 1.6 million images to provide the first complete detailed topographic and mineralogical maps of the moon and a detailed survey of lunar gravity which reflects the moon's interior structure.

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