In the next decade, space exploration advanced at a dizzying speed. After the Soviet Union launched the first man – Yuri Gagarin – into orbit in 1961, President John F. Kennedy promised the United States would land a man on the Moon before the 1960s were out. And over the next few years, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union conducted a series of unmanned missions to the Moon, in order to learn more about the strange lunar landscape.
During this period, scientists gathered information about the Moon’s environment. As a result, they discovered that the lunar landscape featured many craters of different sizes and was covered by a fine dust. Researchers also learned that the Moon was made up of rocks not dissimilar to the ones on our own planet. But unlike Earth, it had no atmosphere or magnetic field.
Human exploration of the Moon really got underway in late 1968. It was then that a manned Apollo 8 flight orbited the Moon for nearly 24 hours. This was the first occasion upon which the lunar landscape had been viewed by humans from close up. However, it would be another seven months before man would successfully land on the Moon.