World of Knowledge (Australia) - - Letters -

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.

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