Why has there been such a long gap?
Political and technological factors have delayed our return to the Moon
Space stations and robotic science missions have been the main focus of space exploration since the Apollo missions ended in 1972. Since then, human trips to space have been limited to low-Earth orbit. Without the political agenda of the Space Race, governments weren’t interested in funding a space programme. And in a way, we needed to wait for the rise of commercial space, for launch costs to decrease, for new innovations to emerge such as faster prototyping, the advances in additive manufacturing, artificial intelligence and robotics – all these technologies can be adapted for applications on the lunar surface.
With the emergence of China and India and commercial space companies that weren’t around 50 years ago, perhaps it forced the US and the other more prominent space agencies to rally together and realise that it was time to go back. It was time to return to the Moon together, not just for ‘footprints and flags’, but to live and explore. And to begin the permanent presence out into the expanse of space, and beyond the cradle of Earth.
▲ The crew module for SpaceX Demo-1 mission. The commercial sector is playing a large part in our return to the Moon