Another former astronaut, one of the few in the extremely exclusive club of men who’ve walked the lunar surface, is advocating a human return.
There’s not many people who’d like to see such a thing more than me. Officially it’s NASA policy to get us back to the moon by… lessee, 2020 I believe is the current figure. Delays would not be unexpected. From the Kennedy speech announcing our goal of landing on the moon for the first time to Armstrong’s stepping onto the Sea of Tranquility was 6 years, 8 months, and 8 days. With technology from the 60s! We are in a sorry state indeed.
Yes, yes, spaceflight is expensive. And of all people a taxpayer-money hawk like me ought to be suspicious of grandiose projects which don’t necessarily have a lot of direct practical benefit. With the Dow nudging the 7000s and possibly preparing to go lower there’s even less money than usual to go around. But let’s have some perspective too. Of every taxpayer dollar the federal government spends, NASA gets one half of one cent. The $700b bailout would have funded NASA for 40 years at the current rate. Allegedly the bailout will be paid back, but I’m not holding my breath.
Now there’s nothing preventing other nations from getting to the moon either. I don’t think Russia or the EU will make an effort, but China or India might. That would be fine with me. I’d like to see the US seriously in the human space exploration game, and the more nations competing/cooperating the better the chance of success. Despite popular opinion, however, money in those nations is not exactly unlimited either. The global economic problems squeeze everyone. We’re probably stuck in low orbit (or on the ground) for a while.
So when will somebody next stand on the moon? I’m going to be optimistic and say that the 2020 goal is achievable, especially if the economy picks back up in a few years. Technology grows by the day and as private space ventures become feasible then NASA can focus more on the really difficult stuff. Throw in a possible space race and you never know.
But let’s not wait around. One of my life goals is to see a human being on Mars. If we can’t make it to the moon than we’re definitely not making progress to the planets. Get going!