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To the Moon and back – the 12 astronauts who lived the lunar dream

NASA is finally set to put boots back on the Moon – but can you name all those who've stepped on its surface before?

The crew of Apollo 11
The crew of Apollo 11

In an exciting moment today, NASA’s new Moon rocket arrived at its Florida launch pad ahead of its debut flight later this month.

It took nearly 10 hours for the incredible 322ft vehicle to make its four-mile trip to the pad at Cape Canaveral, pulling up at just after sunrise to the cheer of Kennedy Space Centre staff.

NASA is aiming for an August 29 lift-off for this first flight in the Artemis programme – the space agency's initiative to return astronauts to the Moon, preparing the way for human missions to Mars. The capsule will fly around the moon in a distant orbit for a couple weeks, before heading back for a splashdown in the Pacific.

While Artemis 1 will be unmanned, NASA is aiming for a lunar-orbiting flight with astronauts in two years (Artemis 2) and a lunar landing by a human crew in 2025 (Artemis 3). The space agency has reportedly promised that this third mission will witness the first time in history that a woman will set foot on the lunar surface.

This December will mark 50 years since man last landed on the moon. From 1969 to 1972, the Apollo programme led to 12 astronauts leaving their boot prints in the lunar dust, and as we take a step closer to our thrilling return to the moon's surface, let's remind ourselves of its past visitors.

1. Neil Armstrong

Apollo 11 – 1969

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind... Armstrong may have been the first, be was far from the last.

2. Buzz Aldrin

Apollo 11 – 1969

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon

Born in Glen Ridge, New Jersey, Aldrin was 39 when he became the second man to walk on the lunar surface.

3. Pete Conrad

Apollo 12 – 1969

A test pilot, aeronautical engineer and astronaut, Conrad's trip to the moon was in fact his third space flight.

4. Alan Bean

Apollo 12 – 1969

Owner of the fourth pair of boots on the moon, Bean was 37 when Apollo 12 touched down.

5. Alan Shepard

Apollo 14 – 1971

Alan Shepard

Shepard was in fact the first American to travel into space, having done so in 1961 – ten years before his moon walk.

6. Edgar Mitchell

Apollo 14 – 1971

The lunar module pilot of Apollo 14, Mitchell spent nine hours working on the lunar surface in the Fra Mauro Highlands region.

7. David Scott

Apollo 15 – 1971

The seventh person to walk on the moon, Scott made his first flight into space five years earlier as pilot of the Gemini 8 mission. Neil Armstrong was also on board.

8. James Irwin

Apollo 15 – 1971

Eighth man on the lunar surface, Benson was the first, and youngest, of those astronauts to die, sadly passing away following a heart attack at the age of 61.

9. John Young

Apollo 16 – 1972

Young was the only person to have piloted, and been commander of, four different classes of spacecraft: Gemini, the Apollo Command/Service Module, the Apollo Lunar Module, and the Space Shuttle.

10. Charles Duke

Apollo 16 – 1972

Born in North Carolina, during his career as a pilot Duke logged 4,147 hours of flying time, which included 3,632 hours in jet aircraft and 265 hours in space.

11. Gene Cernan

Apollo 17 – 1972

Gene Cernan (right) and Apollo 13 astronaut Jim Lovell in 2012

The eleventh person to walk on the moon, Cernan was also the most recent to do so since he was actually the last to re-enter the Apollo 17 lunar module.

12. Harrison Schmitt

Apollo 17 – 1972

Following his career as an astronaut and his retirement from NASA, Schmitt served as a US Senator for six years.

For more information on NASA's Artemis programme, visit https://www.nasa.gov/artemisprogram

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