How Long Does It Take to Get to the Moon?

The Earth’s distance to the moon is between 360,000km and 405,000km (224,000 to 252,000 miles). It is the nearest celestial body to our planet, so it doesn’t take too long to travel there from Earth. How long does it take to get to the moon?

Normally, a spacecraft takes three days to get to the moon. This is the average time since there have been cases where travel has been shorter and longer.

Read on to find out more about how long it takes to get to the moon from Earth and about the spacecraft and probes that have made it to the moon’s orbit.

How Long Does It Take to Get to the Moon?

how long does it take to get to the moon

On average, it takes three days to get to the moon from Earth. Spacecraft travels about 240,000 miles (386,400 kilometers) which is the distance between Earth and the Moon. The duration of time to get to the moon is dependent on various factors such as:

  1. Spacecraft,
  2. Fuel,
  3. The exact distance to the moon, and
  4. Whether it’s a manned or crewless aircraft.

Some moon voyages are faster, and some are longer, but the average is 3 days.

How long does it take to get to the moon and back? With Apollo 11 as a basis, it’ll probably take about eight days to get to the moon and back.

Factors Affecting How Long It Will Take to Get to the Moon

Spacecraft and the System

Travel to the moon can depend on the spacecraft and the system that will launch it towards space.

Luna 1

A solid example is the satellite Luna 1, which USSR launched in the year 1959.

This was a crewless flight and was the very first spacecraft that went to the moon. It took a short 34 to 36 hours to get to the moon with a speed of 6500mph or 10,460 km/h.

SMART-1

The European Space Agency launched SMART-1. This was in 2003, and the spacecraft had a unique propulsion system. Moreover, the European Space Agency created SMART-1 to test the efficiency of a xenon-ion engine.

Thus, SMART-1 test gravity assist maneuvers and spiraled around the Earth for fourteen months.

So it technically reached the moon after 14 months of orbit. With its mission done, it crashed into the moon, and telescopes from the Earth observed its crash. SMART-1 may have been slow, but it has shown to be the most fuel-efficient travel to the moon.

Manned Mission or Not

Manned missions to the moon take about 3 days to get to the moon. The most well-known manned spacecraft trip to the moon was the Apollo 11, on July 16, 1969.

As you probably know, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first two people to walk on the moon. Apollo 11 carried them back to Earth on July 24.

Today, crewless missions are greater because they are much easier to send to the moon. Moreover, the robots do not need to come back like people need to.

These robots transmit data back to Earth via satellite. They can explore the moon longer without having to need food and water.

How long to get to the moon? On average, to get to the moon, you have to travel for about three days. But this depends on the spacecraft, fuel, and more.

Unmanned Moon Missions

We have always been fascinated by the moon. There’s something uniquely mysterious about this cratered celestial body that enchants humankind.

Humans invented telescopes to study the moon from afar, and then, finally, in the middle of the 20th century, humans were able to reach the moon and see its surface up close:

1. Luna 1

The US and the Soviet Union were the first two nations to organize voyages to the moon. In January 1959, the Soviet Union made a huge success when Luna 1 became the 1st spacecraft to defy Earth’s gravity and fly 4,000 miles from the moon’s surface.

This success solidified other plans for missions to the moon because it became clear that it could be done.

2. Luna 2

In fact, later that year, the Soviets relaunched Luna 2. Then, Luna 2 became famous as the 1st spacecraft to touch the moon. Luna 2 crashed in the Mare Imbrium Basin on the moon.

3. Luna 3

Being persistent, the Soviets also launched in the same year, Luna 3. Luna 3 was the first mission to the moon that could photograph the moon’s surface.

4. Ranger 9

In the year 1965, the US launched NASA the Ranger 9. The Ranger 9 gave scientists closer and clearer pictures of the moon’s surface. It could not come back to Earth because it crashed to the moon after taking the photographs.

5. Luna 9

The Soviets launched Luna 9 in 1966 and became the 1st ever spacecraft to land on the moon. Luna 9 took panoramic pictures of the moon.

6. Luna 10

Later on, Luna 10 became the 1st spacecraft to orbit the moon fully. In 1966, NASA launched a spacecraft to land on the moon with the first of the Surveyor series probes.

The surveyor program had 7 launched lunar missions. Five of these missions had successful soft landings on the moon. They provided scientists with more data, including soil samples and photographs of the moon.

Manned Missions

1. Apollo 11

how long does it take to get to the moon from earth

The most famous mission to the moon was by Apollo 11(also called Eagle) on July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong and Edwin ”Buzz” Aldrin landed on the moon in the Sea of Tranquility, and Michael Collins, another astronaut with them, orbited the moon using command module Columbia.

Armstrong and Aldrin stayed on the moon’s surface for 21 hours and 36 minutes and then met up with Collins and then headed back to Earth.

After Apollo 11, each Apollo mission made milestones in space travel history. Apollo 12 touched down again on the moon with a landing more precisely on the moon. The Apollo 11 mission took 100 hours to get to the moon.

2. Apollo 13

Apollo 13 had a dramatic adventure when oxygen tanks onboard exploded en route to the moon. The spacecraft aborted the lunar mission altogether and returned to Earth. All astronauts on board were able to survive.

3. Apollo 15

In July 1971, Apollo 15 was launched. This was a spacecraft that was designed to be able to stay longer on the moon. It was a crewed mission, and the crew was able to collect and bring back samples of lunar samples.

The Apollo15 mission astronauts were the first to drive a lunar buggy totaling a drive of more than 17 miles, a first-ever in space history.

4. Apollo 16 and 17

In 1972, Apollo 16 and Apollo 17 were launched, both being crewed lunar missions. These two missions brought back more samples from the moon that expanded humanity’s knowledge of the moon.

To date, only 12 humans have been able to set foot on the moon.

Voyages to the Moon

As mentioned earlier, various factors determine how long a spacecraft gets to the moon. Some spacecraft and satellites are sent to just zipping by the moon to take photographs.

Here are some notable trips and zips by to the moon:

1. Luna 1

Launched by the USSR in 1959. The satellite has no propulsion system, and it took only 34 hours for it to reach the moon. It flew by the moon and then later-onset off to orbit the sun between Earth and Mars. This is among the fastest trips to the moon.

2. SMART 1

This is the first successful European spacecraft launched by the European Space Agency in 2003.

It took more than a year to get to the moon because it did not take a direct path to the moon but instead went around the Earth first before heading to the moon. It used an ion engine that made it very fuel-efficient.

3. APOLLO 8

Apollo 8 was the first spacecraft with a crew that was able to leave low earth orbit. It did not, however, land on the moon but only orbited it. The duration for Apollo 8 to get into the moon’s orbit was 69 hours and 8 minutes.

4. Apollo 11

Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin used Apollo 11 to go to the moon. Apollo 11 landed on the moon, making it possible for the astronauts to walk on the moon. It was the first time man set foot on the moon. The journey took 75 hours and 56 minutes.

5. Chang’e 1

This was a mission launched by China from Xichang Satellite Launch Center. It was launched on October 24, 2007, but remained in Earth’s orbit until October 31, when it then headed to the moon and entered the moon’s orbit on November 5. The voyage to the moon lasted five days.

6. Chang’e 2

This was launched on October 1, 2010, also by China. Its voyage was 4 days and 16 hours to get to lunar orbit.

7. New Horizons

This was the fastest mission ever sent to the moon. Launched by NASA, it flew past the moon with its Atlas V rocket.

It took only 8 hours and 35 minutes to get to the moon from Earth with a speed of approximately 16km per second. New Horizons then continued to fly by Pluto. It is the first spacecraft to explore the dwarf planet.

Again, how long does it take to get to the moon? To get to the moon, it will take about three days. But this depends on various factors, such as spacecraft, fuel, and whether the mission is supervised by a crew or not.

How Far Is the Moon from the Earth Exactly?

The moon’s existence and its proximity to Earth play a big part in maintaining life on Earth. The moon has a gravitational pull that keeps Earth on its axis and leads to a stable climate.

Perigee and Apogee

how long does it take to get to the moon and back

The moon has an elliptical orbit around the Earth. Its closest approach is called perigee, and this is 363,104 kilometers (225,623 miles) away from the Earth.

Its farthest away point to the Earth is called apogee, and this is 405,696 kilometers (252,088 miles). The average distance then of the Earth to the moon is 384,400 kilometers (238,855 miles).

Many scientists think that the moon was formed when a huge object, about the size of Mars, collided with the young Earth then. Debris from the collision formed into a mass – the moon. Back then, the moon and Earth were about 20 times closer to each other than they are now.

The moon rotates concurrently with the Earth. The moon rotates on its own axis. A full rotation of the moon happens every 27 days and 8 hours. That’s about the same time it also takes to revolve around the Earth. This is why we always see only one side of the moon.

A synodic month is also a lunar month. This is the time it takes to go from full moon to full moon. It takes about 29 days and 13 hours.

How Far Is the Moon in Terms of Light-Years?

In light-years, the moon is about 1.3 light-seconds away from Earth. Light-year is the astronomical distance light travels in one Earth year. Take note that one light-year is about 6 trillion miles and that light-year is used to describe the distance for most objects found in space.

Thus, how long does it take to get to the moon from earth? It will take about three days to get to the moon, depending on the type of spacecraft, fuel, and whether the mission has a crew or not.

But how long does it take to get to the moon and back? With Apollo 11 as a basis, it’ll probably take about eight days to get to the moon and back.

Conclusion – How Long Does It Take to Get to the Moon from Earth

The average time it takes to get to the moon from Earth is three days. This, however, may vary from mission to mission.

The duration of time to get to the moon actually is dependent on various factors like the spacecraft used, the fuel used, the exact distance to the moon, and whether it’s a manned or crewless aircraft.

Some moon voyages are faster, and some are longer, but the average is 3 days.

Again, some of the man and unmanned missions include the following:

Manned Missions

Apollo 11, 13, 15, 16, and 17

Unmanned Missions

  1. Luna 1, 2, and 3
  2. Ranger 9
  3. Luna 9 and 10