There are many reasons why mankind has had to wait more than 50 years to go back to the Moon.
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 transported the first humans to the surface of the Moon. Commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Edwin F. Aldrin descended from their Eagle capsule to take humanity’s first steps on the Moon. An event that certainly marked a milestone in space exploration, but also made clear the dominance of the United States against the Soviet Union and was an important part of the Cold War. But then, how is it that such a long-awaited and hard-fought mission between the two most powerful nations of the time has been abandoned for almost five decades? Why hasn’t man returned to the Moon in 50 years?
To understand the answer to this question we must be aware that it is not only a matter of human curiosity to reach space with the desire to know beyond their own limits. Political, economic, and even space weather factors are involved in order for mankind to set foot on the Moon again.
NASA has already planned a manned mission to our natural satellite, which has been baptized with the name of Artemis. And although it is now known that men and women will set foot on the satellite again in 2024, for many decades all efforts to carry out manned missions were abandoned. The last mission of this kind took place in 1972, when Apollo 17 transported Gene Cernan to the moon. Since then there had been no plans to return until Artemis was announced. But why?
Why hasn’t humanity returned to the Moon?
The answer is not limited to a single answer; on the contrary, it takes at least two main directions. The first is the culmination of what we knew as the Space Race. This was a fierce struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union to demonstrate their technological superiority. In the 1960s, after the end of the Second World War, the arms ceasefire took place. However, geopolitical and ideological disputes between nations continued to exist, and this ideological war, known as the Cold War, unleashed competition between the powers to demonstrate which had the greatest capacity for power in the world.
And precisely one way of demonstrating this was to reach space. The Soviet Union was ahead of the other countries when it became the first nation to place the first artificial satellite in orbit in 1957, Sputnik 1. It later flew the first manned mission into Earth orbit in 1961 on the Vostok 1 rocket.
For a long decade, both nations fought to put the first man on the Moon to demonstrate their technological superiority. Which of course also demonstrated superiority in weapons in case a new war broke out. Thus, NASA’s successful landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon in 1969 represented the culmination of this aerospace battle. But the Apollo missions did not end there but extended until 1972, the last time man stepped on the Moon. With this, the United States made clear its dominance in the field, and once the Apollo Project was completed, the idea of returning cooled down. And this is where the second answer to why man has not returned to the Moon comes in.
Internal political debate
Former NASA Administrator James Bridenstine explained in previous years that returning to the Moon has not happened simply because of a lack of funding.
He made it clear that the ambitious goal requires far more federal cash than is thought and has historically been a point of political contention in Washington. According to Bridenstine, the lunar mission is too time-consuming, in addition to costing “too much money.”
The biggest challenge NASA has faced has been the political debate among the men who make decisions on behalf of the entire United States. Although it seems that they have finally achieved the goal, NASA prepares the mission to the Moon for 2024. As well as another one to the Red Planet that is causing much expectation among the astronomical community.
Story originally published in Ecoosfera