Fifty years after the first steps of the human on the lunar surface, the Moon is again a subject at NASA.
The United States wants its astronauts to return to the Moon and soon, by 2024. It is believed that the Moon will serve as a determining test field for the real prize: sending astronauts to Mars.
The space club of the billionaires is already on board. Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic prefer the Moon than Mars. Elon Musk of SpaceX is also encouraging the Earth’s satellite, although his heart is in the colonization of Mars.
However, NASA cannot even place its astronauts in orbit around Earth.
“50 years ago … we landed, we explored, we got up again, we got together, we came back. It’s 50 years without progress,” astronaut Buzz Aldrin lamented earlier this month. “I think we should all feel a little ashamed of not being able to do better than that.”
Astronaut Michael Collins, who circled the Moon in the mothership while Aldrin and Neil Armstrong planted a US flag and collected rocks, acknowledges that returning to the Moon as a step towards Mars is “a valid plan.” “But I don’t have to agree with that,” Collins told The Associated Press.
Even President Donald Trump prefers to talk about Mars. In a recent meeting with Aldrin and Collins, Trump asked if it was possible to send astronauts to Mars without going back to visit the Moon. Collins replied, yes.
Despite the lack of human presence on the Moon, robotic ships are exploring that gray and dusty world. The NASA Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has been circling the Moon for the past 10 years. Earlier this year, China landed a ship on the other side of the Moon. And on Monday, India plans to launch a mission to the lunar south pole.
NASA currently has 38 astronauts, 12 of whom are women.
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