How Long Does It Take To Get To The Moon? Here's Your Answer

Dhir Acharya - Dec 08, 2020


How Long Does It Take To Get To The Moon? Here's Your Answer

How long does it take to get to the Moon, this is an important question that we need to answer if we want more efficient lunar trips in the future.

In 2008, Richard Branson outlined his vision for the future of Virgin Galactic. When tourists can go to Earth orbit, there may be space hotels to serve those staying for a longer time in space. Then, he mentioned that such hotels could initiate short visit tours to the Moon. If we can turn trips to the Moon into a commercial tourism activity, we need to make them as short as they can. And in this post, we will discuss the question you may be asking: how long does it take to get to the Moon?

Answering this question is important because it directly affects how long a trip to the Moon and back will last. Humans, using their machines, have traveled to the Moon multiple times before and while some can take a long time, others get to the Moon very fast. Now, we will review a number of methods of traveling to the Moon and see which one is the fastest and efficient as a mean of transit.

How long does it take to get to the Moon?
How long does it take to get to the Moon?

How long does it take to get to the Moon in unmanned missions?

The slowest mission to the Moon, in fact, used one of the highest technologies for space travel. On September 27, 2003, the SMART-1 lunar probe was launched by the European Space Agency, which used a revolutionary ion engine for propelling the probe to the Moon. It took SMART-1 one year, 1 month, and 2 weeks to get to the Moon on November 11, 2004.

While this is the slowest lunar mission, it remains the most fuel-efficient one. The entire mission consumed just 82 kilograms of xenon propellant. This is also the longest lunar mission in history, others took only days to get to the Moon.

How long does it take to get to the Moon?
The Chang'e missions

On October 24, 2007, China launched the Chang’e-1 mission from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The mission remained in the Earth's orbit until October 31 and arrived on the Moon on November 5. That means it took the mission 5 days to cover the distance from Earth to Moon with its rocket boosters. This mission was followed by the Chang’e-2 mission that was launched on October 1, 2010, which landed on the Moon after 4 days and 16 hours.

On December 31, 2013, China launched the Chang’e-3 probe and lander that landed on the Moon on December 6, 2013. At the time, this became the fastest Chang’e misson to arrive on the Moon with 4 days, 12 hours, 23 minutes.

However, the fastest unmanned lunar mission was the Soviet Luna 1 probe that was carried out in 1959. The mission left Earth on January 2 and took only 36 hours to complete the trip, meaning its average speed was 10,500 kilometers per hour.

How long does it take to get to the Moon?
The Soviet Luna probe

How long does it take to get to the Moon in crewed missions?

So far, the Apollo missions were the only manned missions to the Moon. The Apollo was launched in 1969 with Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong, in which the Saturn V rocket took them from the Kennedy Space Center.

It took the crew 51 hours, 49 minutes to arrive on the Moon on July 19, 1969. After that, the mission took 2 days, 22 hours, 56 minutes to get back to our home planet. That makes Apollo 11 not only the first manned mission but also the fastest manned lunar travel.

How long does it take to get to the Moon?
The Apollo 11 mission

What is the fastest mission to the Moon?

As of now, the fastest mission to the Moon is the New Horizons Puto mission launched by NASA. It had a speedy launch, accelerating 16.26 km/s. At such a speed, the mission took only 8 hours, 35 minutes to get to the Moon.

This travel time was impressive, but we need to remember that the New Horizons did not slow down to enter the Moon’s orbit. That means it was possibly still accelerating after it had passed the Moon.

How long does it take to get to the Moon?
The New Horizon mission

How far is the Moon?

The Moon is a rounded astronomical body orbiting the Earth and currently the only natural satellite of our home planet. Though the Moon orbits Earth, it’s actually not that close to the planet. Approximately, the Moon is 384,402 kilometers away from Earth, meaning about 30 Earths.

How long does it take to get to the Moon?
How far is the Moon from Earth

If we are to have space tourism to conduct sightseeing tours to the Moon, there will be a few options available. They could use long cruises powered by ion engines that gently glide to the Moon and let tourists slowly enjoy the view. They could otherwise use a rocket that blasts tourists off rapidly into space and take them back in one or two days. There are several factors affecting the duration of a lunar trip, in addition to how long does it take to get to the Moon, we will also need to take the trade-offs and technology into account.

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