Once the Space War ended, attempts to return to the Moon vanished. Still, NASA has been planning one mission for 2024.
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 humanity 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 limits. Political, economic, and even space weather factors are involved for humanity to set foot on the Moon again.
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NASA has already planned a mission to our natural satellite, which has been baptized with the name of Artemis. Although it is unknown if men and women will set foot on the satellite again in 2024, for many decades all efforts to carry out missions involving humans on the Moon have been 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 didn’t humanity return to the Moon?
There isn’t one single answer, on the contrary, there are two main reasons behind the decision. The first one is the culmination of what we know as the Space Race. This was a fierce battle between the United States and the Soviet Union to demonstrate their technological superiority. In the 1960s, after the end of the Second World War, a cease to weapons was agreed between the two powers. 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 in the world.
And one way to prove it 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 achieved the first man 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 dominance in technology. 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 humanity 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 we haven’t 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 those who make decisions on behalf of the entire United States. Although it seems that they have finally achieved the goal, NASA has been preparing one mission to the Moon for 2024. As well as another one to the Red Planet that is causing much expectation among the astronomical community.
Text courtesy of Ecoosfera