It has been a busy second half of the year for the Moon. Since late June, three US rockets have launched payloads to the Moon, and one more is set for early Friday morning.
Across these four launches—two on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, one on Rocket Lab’s Electron, and one on NASA’s Space Launch System—there have been a total of 15 spacecraft sent to fly by the Moon, enter orbit, or land there. The most notable of these, of course, is NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which is due to return to Earth on December 11.
This represents a remarkable renaissance in lunar exploration. Consider that, from 1973 to 2022, NASA and the United States sent a total of 15 spacecraft to the Moon over a period of five decades. Now, thanks to a mix of commercial, academic, and government payloads, US rockets will launch 15 spacecraft to the Moon in about five months.