Forty-Five Years After the First Landing, Sights are Set for the Moon Once Again.
On July 20, 1969 (45 years ago on Sunday), Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people to set foot on the moon. This momentous feat was repeated five more times, yet no one has been on the moon or in lunar orbit since the last Apollo mission in 1972.
Private entities have made spaceflight a goal since the dawn of the Space Age. Following the lead of government programs, such as NASA, these companies have helped spur the development of new technologies that have helped mankind extend their reach into the universe. Private enterprises have breached the atmosphere and have launched into orbital flight, but now their sights are set higher.
The next step for commercial space ventures, as well as government programs, is the moon. Recent projects such as NASA’s LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) mission and China’s Yutu lunar rover use the moon as a method of learning more about our solar system. For commercial enterprises, escaping Earth’s orbit is their next big adventure. The Google Lunar X Prize is currently challenging privately funded teams to land and maneuver a rover on the moon while sending back video, all by the end of 2015.
There’s even the chance for private citizens to experience the moon first-hand. Space Adventures is working on a lunar mission that will allow two passengers and a professional cosmonaut to launch outside of Earth’s orbit, fly around the far side of the moon, and return to Earth after coming 100 km from the surface of the moon. This will be a once in a lifetime opportunity for not only the passengers, but for the space industry. Sending people close to the moon for the first time in 40 years is key milestone for sending people farther – potentially even as far as Mars.
As the human race ventures further into space, the moon will become a stepping stone. The time has come for us to go beyond our current scope and to, quite literally, aim for the stars. Thanks to the path that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and the rest of the Apollo astronauts have forged, the idea of space travel outside Earth’s orbit can become a reality.