Landing 12 astronauts on the moon remains the greatest achievement of the American space Agency NASA. During these trips, the astronauts collected samples of lunar soil, conducted video and photography of the satellite, conducted experiments on its surface, set the flags and then returned home. But in the end neither held for many weeks missions program “Apollo” was never meant that mankind was able to permanently gain a foothold on Earth. And now, after more than 45 years since the last manned landing on the moon – in the framework of the mission “Apollo 17” in December 1972 – America finally had enough reasons to return to this gray ball, similar to Swiss cheese.
Scientists and entrepreneurs from around the world is that inhabited base on the moon might be the ideal springboard for the implementation of space missions in deep space. It can be used as a space filling, there will be possible to build an incredible space telescopes, as well as to use the base as a platform to prepare humanity to colonize Mars. The work on the lunar base will allow to solve many scientific puzzles related to the nature of the Earth and its satellite. In the end, the Moon may one day turn into private economic hub, possibly related with the same sphere of space tourism.
“Permanent research station on the moon will be the next logical step in the conquest of the Solar system. And we’re almost ready to commit, no not ditching,” shared former NASA astronaut Chris Hadfield in conversation with Business Insider.
“Then you will have to come up with a bunch of other stuff before we can go further”.
Most astronauts and experts, space, the newspaper writes, agree in opinion that the greatest challenges hold the humanity to continue the exploration of the moon more than four decades, has been outrageously very trivial.
To fly to the moon very expensive
The main reason standing in the way of any space programme, especially if we were talking about manned missions, was always connected with the question of price. Signed in March 2017 President of the United States Donald trump the budget for the space Agency NASA has allocated approximately $ 19.5 billion with the prospect of raising funds to 19.9 billion in 2019. In both cases, this was significantly less than what the Agency stood out in the past.
For the average person this amount may seem astronomical. But take a look at what the ambitious goals of the us space Agency – space telescope “James Webb,” the development of a new launch vehicle Space Launch System mission to study the Sun, Jupiter, Mars, the asteroid belt, the Kuiper belt and the edge of the Solar system – and this amount starts to look ridiculous. Especially against the backdrop of the US military budget, which annually spends about $ 600 billion. One of the projects under this budget, for example, is the modernization of the us nuclear Arsenal. According to experts for its implementation in the next 30 years will be spent not less than $ 1.7 trillion.
“Most of the money NASA had received in 1965. Then the share of the Agency accounted for 4 percent of the Federal budget. The last 40 years, the space industry, the country allocates less than 1 percent of the budget, while the past 15 years, the figure was 0.4 percent,” — said in 2015, astronaut mission “Apollo 7” Walter Cunningham.
In the task list, is included in the adopted budget trump, is the reincarnation of the program of returning people to the moon and a manned mission to flyby Mars. But given the ever-ballooning projected costs of their implementation, as well as the constant delays NASA related to the development of carrier rocket, the SLS, the allocated money may not be enough for any of these tasks. Even if the United States refuses the financial support of the International space station project earlier than originally planned.
In the NASA report for 2005 indicated an approximate cost of returning humans to the moon. For 13 years, the U.S. would have to spend around 104 billion (133 billion today when adjusted for inflation). The same program “Apollo” by today’s standards cost U.S. taxpayers about $ 120 billion.
“Manned space missions are the most expensive company. They are very difficult to implement, so to obtain political support for them is incredibly difficult. But without clear support from government, they will remain merely idle chatter,” said Cunningham.
“The NASA budget is too small in order that we could seriously begin a discussion of all things raised today,” summed up then Cunningham.
A change of government
Trump has set a goal to return Americans to “lunar space” by 2023. That is, approximately to the end of his presidency, if it will, of course, reelected for a second term. Thus we come to the second big problem – the possibility of “political sabotage”.
“Do you believe everything that is promised to carry the President to the end of his second term in office, when there was not even the first? That’s just talk,” commented Hadfield to Business Insider.
The process of design, build and test spacecraft capable of delivering humans to another planet in time can easily exceed two presidential terms. However, still there is a certain amount of predictability: an important factor will be the willingness of the new government to pursue this to the previous leader of the country’s priorities.
“I would like that the next President has supported a budget that would allow us to perform a space mission, the support of which we requested. However, these missions were not,” wrote astronaut Scott Kelly, answering questions from Reddit users in 2016 before joining trump as the new President of the United States.
As it turned out, neither the new President nor the U.S. Congress did not stick to the plans and objectives set by previous leaders. However, for US this was not the first time.
For example, in 2004, the Bush administration has set NASA the challenge to develop a new program, which would replace the outdated program “space Shuttle”. In addition, the Agency task was to figure out how to return to the moon. So there was the program “Constellation” (Constellation) in which it was planned to land astronauts on the moon, using a new carrier rocket heavy class “Ares” and the spacecraft “Orion”.
In five years NASA has spent on the development, creation and testing of the equipment for the program of 59 billion dollars. After the presidency took Barack Obama, the new government that came along with him, prepared a report which claimed that the us space Agency has been unable to correctly assess the cost of the program “Constellation”. In the end, Obama shut down the program and signed a new, aims to develop new carrier rocket Space Launch System (SLS).
After coming to power, trump did not abandon the program of the SLS, however, he changed priorities. Instead of landing on the asteroid, as proposed by Obama and his administration, trump wanted to return humans to the moon, and also deal with missions related to the exploration of Mars.
This private changing areas of activity, NASA has not remained without consequences. The US has lost about 20 billion dollars and years of wasted and lost time.
“I’m very disappointed so slow trying to do something else. With regards to the future I have no hopes. Just going to see what will happen next,” — commented the American astronaut mission “Apollo 8” James Arthur Lovell in an interview with Business Insider in 2017.
Buzz Aldrin (the second man to set foot on the moon) in 2015, expressed the hope that the decision to return to the moon will be taken on Capitol hill.
“America’s leadership and consistency in doing those things that would be no other nation inspires the world. We have demonstrated this 45 years ago. I don’t believe in this we dwell”, said Aldrin in a prepared speech.
The real driving force behind the government’s desire to return to the moon, is the will of the American people who voted for this government and helped shape the priorities for the policy. However, for exploration of the moon, notes the Business Insider, the public interest in the subject has always been, if not indifferent, it is not so bright as it might seem.
Even in the midst of the Apollo program, after Neil Armstrong and buzz Aldrin stepped onto the lunar surface, only 53 percent of Americans believed that the program is worth the funds that have been expended on it. In most other cases the interest in the Apollo program among the population of America is always kept substantially below 50 percent.
Today, 55 percent of Americans believe that NASA should make a return to the moon a priority, but only a quarter of these people believe that this task should be the most important for the American space Agency (if you believe the June polls). While 44 percent of the population believe that sending astronauts to the moon – do a meaningless task, and should not do this.
Support for a program of manned flights to Mars is surprisingly higher – 63 per cent of the population believe that NASA should make this goal a priority. 91 per cent of people consider it important to continue and expand programs for observation and reflection space threats (asteroids, meteorites, etc.).
Of the policy limits
Political disputes on the subject of space missions of NASA and the Agency’s budget are not the only reason why people still have not returned to the moon. Our companion is a real death trap age of 4.5 billion years. It cannot be underestimated. She will not forgive any weakness. She will kill anyone who dares to approach her unprepared.
Its surface is covered with craters and razor-sharp stones, complicating the fit. Before the historic landing on the moon, the US government has spent billions of dollars to develop, launch and deliver a spacecraft to the moon, so they were able to create enough high-quality map its surface and helped the planners of space missions to find the most safe place for landing of “Apollo-11”.
Concerns also caused (and continues to be) the fact that a myriad of meteorite strikes have turned the moon into a highly dangerous substance – regolith (or moon dust).
“The moon is covered in very fine calopogonium a layer of dust several inches deep in some areas. This dust has a very high level of abrasion and receives electrostatic charge through its interaction with the solar wind. In the end, she sticks to everything that it touches, getting the spacesuits, spacecraft, and electronics” — wrote in 2014 Madhu to Thangavelu, engineer in aeronautical engineering from the University of southern California.
American astronaut Peggy Whitson, a total of propsa in earth orbit, 665 day, was told recently that the mission “Apollo” was faced with big problems associated with this dust.
“If we want to play long mission and even more to build there a permanent home, we need to deal with this problem,” said Whitson.
Another problem is the sunlight. The lunar surface may for 14.75 days to turn into a hot surface due to the incident direct sunlight. The moon has no protective atmosphere. 14.75 the following day the surface is in complete darkness, making it one of the coldest places in the Universe.
In this situation would be by the way a very compact nuclear reactor Kilopower, developed by NASA. He will be able to provide astronauts the necessary supply of electricity is long-lasting for weeks night, and also very useful for exploration of other planets, e.g. Mars.
“No more harsh and unforgiving place to live than the Moon. But since it was the closest to the Earth celestial body, the best places for life abroad, we simply do not,” wrote Thangavelu.
NASA has led the development of dust and sun space suits and Rovers, but how the Agency has progressed in these developments is unknown. They were part of the program “Constellation”, which, recall, was closed a few years ago.
Generation of billionaires enthusiasts can solve all these problems
“We have a whole generation of billionaires-daredevils. All those innovations that saw our industry over the last 10 years, would not have been possible if we had only NASA, Boeing and Lockheed. Why? Because there would be no motivation to reduce the cost of development and the use of certain technologies,” he said at one of his press conferences this year, NASA astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman.
Hoffman, of course, primarily meant the work done by Elon Musk and his company SpaceX and Jeff Bezosa and his Blue Origin.
“No doubt, if we are going to move forward, especially if we are talking about how to move on the moon, then we need a new spacecraft and rocket. In terms of features we are now closer to dautomobiles era,” said Hoffman.
Many of the astronauts would like to visit the moon. And this only plays into the hands of people like Jeff Bezos, who recently began actively advertising in Washington his plan to build the first lunar base using developed by his company Blue Origin rocket New Glenn. In April of this year he stated that his company “is going to bring all the heavy industry beyond Earth, leaving her only light.”
Musk is also a long time talking about how in the development of SpaceX booster BFR (Big Falcon Rocket) will make flights to the moon, regular and accessible to many. And according to those same “many”, SpaceX will be able to reach the moon even before NASA and Blue Origin.
“My dream is that one day the Moon would become part of the economic sphere of the Earth as geostationary and low-earth orbit now,” said Hoffman.
“The space of the geostationary orbit is part of our daily economy. One day, I think the Moon also will be a part of it. And it’s worth to work and endeavour”.
The other astronauts do not doubt that humanity will return to the moon and begin exploration of Mars. It is only a matter of time.
“I think in the end the people to return to the moon, and then begin to conquer Mars. Most likely, it will not happen in my lifetime. But I hope that these attempts will be successful,” said Arthur Lovell.