How many of you have wanted to go to the moon? Everybody? Well, we’re all nerds here so I’m not surprised.
What is a surprise is NASA’s announcement that there is the possibility of astronauts returning to the moon as early as next year. 2018 is the fiftieth anniversary year of Apollo 8, which was the first spacecraft to reach and orbit our natural satellite. Commander Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders left Earth’s orbit, circled the moon a few times and returned home safely.
Acting NASA administrator Robert Lightfoot said last month he wants to fast-track the heavy-lift rocket, Space Launch System (SLS), which has been in development since 2004. Original plans called for the SLS to make an unmanned flight to the moon in 2018 and a manned mission would follow 3-5 years later. Lightfoot acknowledged the challenges for hurrying the project but wants to discover the opportunities it would provide for getting humans farther into space.
Earthlings haven’t been to the moon since Apollo 17 in 1972 and the space shuttle program was shut down in 2011. Of course, NASA has experienced mixed signals from presidents ever since. Bush I said we’re going to Mars. Then Obama said ‘no’ but changed it to ‘yes’ later on. And The Donald has actually expressed interest in beefing up the space program.
But there has to be more than just talk. NASA’s budget is less than a third of what it was in the mid-1960’s (adjusted for inflation) when we built and flew Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Skylab. NASA needs support to get people back to the moon, because it is going to be a long road from there to Mars.
And I want to go.