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?

Time seems like it's flying when you're in the fast lane, doesn't it? But it can take forever when you're stuck in traffic. To make your time at the stop lights (or roundabouts) fly by, take these tricks from Microsoft and Google.


Like other orbiting bodies in space, the moon's orbit is not exactly circular; it is elliptical. This means that the moon is closer to Earth at some times and further than others – that's why we keep hearing about "supermoons" when the moon is closer. (The point of orbit when the moon is closest to Earth is called perigee; the point of orbit when it is furthest away from Earth is called apogee). Taking advantage of orbital mechanics, astrophysicists can plan lunar missions to coincide when those times that the moon is closer to Earth.

Want proof that orbital mechanics are real? The Apollo 11 mission demonstrates that well. It took the Apollo 11 astronauts three days, three hours and 49 minutes to reach the moon, but they returned in two days, 22 hours and 56 minutes. What explains part of the difference? During the day that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin spent getting to the lunar surface and exploring it, the Earth and the moon moved slightly closer together.

Back in 2008, Richard Branson outlined his vision for Virgin Galactic’s future. Once tourists are taken into Earth orbit, it seems possible that space hotels could be developed for longer stop-overs in space. He then went on to mention that short “sight-seeing” tours to the Moon could be started from these ultimate hotels. If we are to make travel to the Moon routine enough to send tourists there, the trip would need to be as short as possible.

So how long is the commute from the Earth to the Moon anyway? Human beings and machines have made that trip on several occasions. And while some took a very long time, others were astonishingly fast. Let’s review the various missions and methods, and see which offers the most efficient and least time-consuming means of transit.

The slowest mission to fly to the Moon was actually one of the most advanced technologies to be sent into space. The ESA’s SMART-1 lunar probe was launched on September 27th, 2003 and used a revolutionary ion engine to propel it to the Moon. SMART-1 slowly spiraled out from the Earth to arrive at its destination one year, one month and two weeks later on November 11th, 2004.

China’s Chang’e-1 mission was launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on October 24th 2007 but sat in Earth orbit til October 31st when it began its transit to the Moon and arrived in lunar orbit on November 5th. The mission therefore took five days to cover the distance, using its rocket boosters. This was followed up by the Chang’e 2 orbiter, which launched on Oct 1st 2010 and arrived in lunar orbit within 4 days and 16 hours. (Source:

They reached lunar orbit after only 51 hours and 49 minutes in space, arriving on July 19th, 1969. The famous “One small step for man…” speech would not take place until July 21st, roughly 109 hours and 42 minutes into the mission. After dusting off from the Lunar surface, the Lunar Module spent another 2 days, 22 hours and 56 minutes getting back to Earth. So in addition to be the first manned mission, Apollo 11 was also the fastest trip to the Moon where astronauts were involved. (Source: www.universetoday.com)

By far, the fastest mission to fly past the Moon was NASA’s New Horizons Pluto mission. This mission had a speedy launch, with its Atlas V rocket accelerating it to a a speed of about 16.26 km per second (58,536 km/h; 36,373 mph). At this rate, it only took 8 hours and 35 minutes for it to get to the Moon from Earth. Quite a good start for this probe, which was on its way to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt at the time. (Source: www.universetoday.com)

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