One of the main forces driving an upsurge of return to the Moon missions, including crewed ones, is NASA and SpaceX. Here is what makes this moment important and why it is taking place.
“As I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just say what I believe history will record: that America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow.” As NASA astronaut Eugene (Gene) Cernan climbed the ladder back into his lunar module in 1972, he uttered some of the last words ever spoken on the moon.
No one has ever set foot on the lonely, cratered globe that surrounds our own, according to Cernan’s hopes. However, things will soon change as the US prepares to send astronauts back to the moon by 2025 and establish a permanent base there. It is evident that a new era of lunar exploration is beginning when these factors are combined with the aspirations of China and other countries, not to mention the avalanche of robotic missions. Why now, after all these years? is the question.
Long before Cernan left his lunar footprints, the decision to stop the Apollo program was taken. According to Mary Lynne Dittmar, a key player in space policy at the company Axiom Space, “Apollo didn’t end because it was too expensive or because it was unsustainable – the sunk costs were already sunk.” Apollo was put up to win a politically charged election, therefore the adventures came to an end.
First and foremost, the last few decades of space exploration and astronomy have demonstrated that the universe is violent and dangerous, at least in terms of human life. To give an example, in 1908, an unknown object, most likely a comet, struck Siberia with the force of a hydrogen bomb. This object would have destroyed St. Petersburg and probably much more if it had hit a few hours later, allowing for the Earth’s rotation. Going back 65 million years, it is now essentially proven that a much larger impact wiped out not only the dinosaurs, but most other species on Earth at the time. The significance of catastrophic impacts has only recently been demonstrated, and space exploration has played a key role.
These facts point to a bleak conclusion: humanity is vulnerable as long as we are confined to one planet. Clearly, we must increase our efforts to preserve this planet and its biosphere, an effort in which NASA satellites have long played an important role. However, uncontrollable external events have the potential to destroy our civilization, and even our species. We can improve our chances of long-term survival by spreading out across the solar system.
NASA wants to return to the lunar surface before landing the first humans on Mars, but in a way we’ve never explored the moon before.
The unmanned Artemis I mission, which will launch on Monday, August 29, is only the first step toward the future of space exploration.
Apollo 17, the last crewed landing on the moon, took place nearly 50 years ago. The record for the longest crewed deep space flight still belongs to the final Apollo mission: 12.5 days.
Astronauts will go on long-duration deep space missions that push the boundaries of exploration as part of the Artemis program, which aims to land humans at the unexplored lunar south pole and eventually on Mars.
“We’re going back to the moon in order to learn to live, to work, to survive. How do you keep humans alive in those hostile conditions? And we’re going to learn how to use the resources on the moon in order to be able to build things in the future as we go – not a quarter of a million miles away, not a three-day journey – but millions and millions of miles away on a months and months if not years-long journey.”NASA administrator Bill Nelson
During a NASA briefing on Saturday, NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik discussed the importance of using lunar exploration to prepare for a Mars landing.
When camping in the Alaskan wilderness, you wouldn’t rely solely on new gear and unworn shoes, he explained. Mars is also not the place to try out new equipment for the first time.
The Artemis program entails establishing a permanent human presence on the moon and establishing an orbiting lunar outpost known as the Gateway.
“We want to stay on the lunar surface and learn on the lunar surface so that we can get the most science and know how we’re going to go to Mars,” said Jim Free, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Development Mission Directorate. “On Apollo, we did incredible science at the equator. This time, we’re going to the South Pole.”
NASA teams are “going through the broad exploration objectives and then narrowing down to an architecture that will take us out to Mars,” according to Free. “We plan to go through that architecture, decisions, and process in the first half of next year.”
The Obama Administration set the goal of landing humans on Mars by 2033, and NASA administrators have stuck to it ever since.
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