Re­turn to the Moon

The last decade has seen a re­newed in­ter­est in re­turn­ing to the Moon

Sky at Night Magazine - - FIELD OF VIEW -

Apollo cost $160bn at to­day’s prices. Due to huge US spend­ing on the Viet­nam War, so­cial deprivatio­n and other con­cerns at home, in 1972 Pres­i­dent Nixon can­celled the last three planned Apollo mis­sions.

Sad­dened at the cuts, Arthur C Clarke said at the time: “The So­lar Sys­tem was lost, at least for a while, in the paddy fields of Viet­nam,” but then later noted, “in the long per­spec­tive of his­tory, a few odd decades of de­lay does not re­ally mat­ter.”

Post-Apollo am­bi­tions, like NASA’s Project Con­stel­la­tion Moon re­turn plan, did not work due to lack of fund­ing, but in the last five years there has been re­newed in­ter­est across the world, fired by water-ice dis­cov­er­ies at the lu­nar poles.

Fol­low­ing Pres­i­dent Trump’s Space Pol­icy Di­rec­tive 1 in 2017, NASA is de­vel­op­ing the Lu­nar Or­bital Plat­for­mGate­way space sta­tion, with Euro­pean, Ja­panese and Cana­dian sup­port. Land­ing mis­sions may oc­cur by the late 2020s. Re­cently, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence called for a US re­turn to the Moon as early as 2024 – an en­deav­our now called the Artemis mis­sion. Though Pres­i­dent Trump has re­quested an ad­di­tional $1.6 bil­lion to NASA’s 2020 bud­get, many at NASA con­sider this too much of a chal­lenge, and 2028 is prob­a­bly the more re­al­is­tic date.

The driv­ing phrase from space agen­cies now is, “this time we will stay”!

A new era of space ex­plo­ration will see the Lu­nar Or­bital Plat­form-Gate­way used as a hub

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