Why hasn’t the USA been back to the Moon? Are there any manned missions planned for the future?
> NASA’S six manned Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972 proved that lunar landings were possible, despite the limited technology available. But the Apollo programme was also expensive, costing around US$20.4 billion, or US$109 billion in today’s money. NASA simply couldn’t afford to carry out further landings and stated that all of its research aims had been achieved. “They’d accomplished everything they were trying to do,” says former NASA engineer John Schuessler. “Apollo was proof that the United States was a leader in technology in space.” However, there are ambitious plans to return to our rocky satellite. Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, recently announced a scheme to station 12 cosmonauts on the lunar surface – permanently. The mission, pencilled in for 2030, will involve building a base to research and mine precious minerals near the Moon’s poles. NASA is also investigating the feasibility of settling on the Moon in its Evolvable Lunar Architecture Plan – a stepping stone to realising its long-term goal of reaching Mars. Closer to home, a post on the European Space Agency website confirmed that it intends to send robots and astronauts to the Moon by 2030. Once there, they will explore unknown lunar regions and conduct research.