The physical exploration of the Moon began when Luna 2, a space probe launched by the Soviet Union, made an impact on the surface of the Moon on September 14, 1959. Prior to that the only available means of exploration had been observation from Earth. The invention of the optical telescope brought about the first leap in the quality of lunar observations. Galileo Galilei is generally credited as the first person to use a telescope for astronomical purposes; having made his own telescope in 1609, the mountains and craters on the lunar surface were among his first observations using it.
In 1969, NASA's Project Apollo first successfully landed humans on the Moon. They placed scientific instruments there and returned lunar samples to Earth.
The Moon has been the subject of many works of art and literature and the inspiration for countless others. It is a motif in the visual arts, the performing arts, poetry, prose and music.
The Apollo program, also known as Project Apollo, was the third human spaceflight program carried out by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) the United States' civilian space agency. The program was responsible for the landing of the first humans on Earth's Moon in 1969. First conceived during the Presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower as a three-man spacecraft to follow the one-man Project Mercury which put the first Americans in space, Apollo was later dedicated to President John F. Kennedy's national goal of "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the 1960s, which he proposed in a May 25, 1961, address to Congress. Project Mercury was followed by the two-man Project Gemini (1962–66). The first manned flight of Apollo was in 1968.
Kennedy's goal was accomplished on the Apollo 11 mission when astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed their Lunar Module (LM) on the Moon on July 20, 1969, and walked on its surface while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit in the command spacecraft, and all three landed safely on Earth on July 24. Five subsequent Apollo missions also landed astronauts on the Moon, the last in December 1972. In these six spaceflights, 12 men walked on the Moon.
Human spaceflight (or manned spaceflight or crewed spaceflight) is space travel with humans aboard spacecraft. When a spacecraft is manned, it can be piloted directly, as opposed to machine or robotic space probes controlled remotely by humans or through automatic methods on board the spacecraft.
Humans have been continually present in space for13 years and 17 days on the International Space Station. The first manned spaceflight was launched by the Soviet Union on 12 April 1961 as a part of the Vostok program, with cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin aboard.