Landing on the Moon is hard. Most attempts to reach our satellite world in recent years have ended with crashes. And many other landing missions have been delayed by months or years.
Two landers crashed in 2019 — one from India, the other from a private company in Israel. They were victims of bad software or faulty gyroscopes. And a Japanese lander crashed earlier this year, also most likely because of a software problem.
Several companies in the United States are developing landers as well. Some of them will include rovers, and several will land near the south pole, where there should be large deposits of ice. But all of the missions have been delayed — some by years. So the launch queue is getting stacked up with missions to the Moon.
The most successful Moon landers in recent years were launched by China. One touched down on the lunar farside, in 2018 — the first landing on the side of the Moon we never see. The other landed in late 2020. It gathered about four pounds of rocks and dirt and brought them back to Earth for study.
India dispatched a new lander in July, for landing in August — another try at a hard-to-do landing on the Moon.
The target for all of these missions is in the southwest as night falls now. And it has a bright companion: Antares, the heart of the scorpion. The star is close to the left of the Moon this evening, and to the lower right of the Moon tomorrow night.
Script by Damond Benningfield
Editor's Note: India's mission successfully landed on the Moon after this program was recorded, while Russia's Lune 25 was launched and then crashed attempting a landing.