Last year, we marked 50 years since humans first walked on the moon. That was a long time ago. Yet, we’re still exploring space today. What’s out there? We’ve sent lots of unmanned spacecraft to find out. 

A recent mission went to a different part of the moon. As the moon goes around Earth, the same side always faces Earth. This near side is the part we have always visited.

Then, in 2019. China landed a craft on the far side of the moon. It landed in a huge crater. Around the crater were rocks from below the moon’s surface. China will study them.

A view of Earth from the surface of the moon

All landingsmanned or unmannedhappened on the near side of the moon. An unmanned spacecraft from China just landed on the far side.

former USSR
United States
manned Apollo missions

Measuring 'Marsquakes'

The moon is large, but it’s not a planet. Planets are large, round, and orbit, or go around, the sun. Our moon doesn’t orbit the sun. It orbits Earth. Earth is a planet. Mars is, too.

In 2018, the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) landed a spacecraft on Mars. It detected the first “earthquakes,” or “marsquakes,” ever observed on the planet.

This artist’s rendering shows a spacecraft testing for Marsquakes.

Assessing Asteroids

Beyond Mars are lots of small, irregular objects that go around the sun. These are asteroids. Long ago, objects like asteroids came together to build rocky planets like Earth and Mars. Asteroids may contain valuable minerals.

Some asteroids come close to Earth. A Japanese spacecraft is exploring one named Ryugu. Last year, the craft shot a large "bullet" at the asteroid. This kicked up material for the spacecraft to catch for study.

Another spacecraft launched from the United States (U.S.). It is exploring an asteroid named Bennu. Later, it will bring back samples to Earth.

This image shows the Bennu asteroid next to the Eiffel Tower, for scale.