Lunar Flights

Though achieving Orbital Space is a great feat, it’s not always the end of the road. Beginning in 1966 with the Soviet Luna 10 unmanned craft, Lunar Space was achieved when spacecraft moved beyond the limits of Earth Orbit. Reaching Lunar Orbit provides two options: the craft can either remain in orbit around the Moon or actually land on the Lunar surface.

Thus far, Lunar Orbits place the craft in either a circular trajectory at an altitude of 69 – 200 miles (110 – 310 km) or an elliptical orbit ranging from altitudes of 117.5 – 1,008 miles (189.1 – 1,867 km). Once the goal of the flight has been achieved, the craft then escapes Lunar Orbit using a return rocket and begins the journey back to Earth.

A Lunar Landing takes the concept of Lunar Orbit one step further, allowing the craft to descend from orbit around the Moon and land upon the Lunar surface. In the case of a “soft landing” as with the Apollo manned landings beginning in the late 1960’s as well as some unmanned craft, the spacecraft uses a retrorocket to slow the descent so that the craft lands gently so that it may leave the surface in order to return to Earth. As an alternative, an unmanned craft may perform a “hard landing”, in which the craft is not slowed down in any way before impacting the surface and does not return to Earth.

Mission Details

Region Name
Lunar Space

Altitude Range
Above 6,000 miles (10,000 km)

Atmospheric Layer