It started off as one small step for man, continued to one giant leap for mankind. Having humans on the moon will soon find ourselves in a fearless flight for future exploration.
Today marks 50 years since Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin step foot outside of the command module and onto the lunar surface. Even though it’s been 50 years since, it remains one of the most crowning technological achievements of mankind.
The Apollo 11 landing was the first of six crewed moon landings of the America’s Apollo program in that eras Space Race, the last coming in December 1972. No other man from any country has landed on the moon since.
Many have since wondered why have we not returned to the moon, or have gone beyond the moon, when will we ever go back to the moon and even if we ever really landed on the moon. All good questions, but don’t seem to be universally known and accepted by the general public. There are several real factors in determining a viable trip there and beyond. Factors that stretch the limits of our science and technology.
For starters, regarding the question on if we’ve ever actually landed on the moon, there’s undeniable proof that can been seen and measured from items left there from the Apollo missions. As far as why we haven’t gone back and when will we go back are a little more ambiguous. Naturally a big part of that reasoning is financial. At one point in the late 1960s NASA’s budget was just under five percent of our national budget. These days it not have half of one percent.
And speaking of funding. There’s a couple very important elements that have to be factored. Not the least of which is how you would have to break the law of gravity. Gravity could easily be one of the most underappreciated forces in the universe. Quite literally, it surrounds us, it penetrates us and it holds our world together. Without careful planning, construction and design, everything on Earth is meant to go down and stay on the ground. It’s a force that keeps it there. It’ll only take a greater, expensive and technical force to defeat gravity to travel several thousands of miles away. And it’s those thousands of miles that present another hurdle.
To leave Earth’s atmosphere would take a vessel approximately 50 miles. Could be done in a couple minutes with proper propellant. But after that 50 miles, that vessel would have to go about another 239,950 miles to get to the moon. That would be like taking a flight from the United States to China 25 times in a row. It’s not Mars, but it’s definitely not close.
But we did do it though, six times. But was it not important enough to keep doing it? Well, sorta…it was as important enough. There was a purpose to launching into space and getting humans on the moon. On the surface it’s probably something more loftier like to explore the outer reaches of our solar system, or to make humans an interplanetary species, to seek out new life and civilization, or just to boldly go where no man has gone before. But in actuality the main reason was political, and to beat Russia.
Modern warfare began with the nuclear program after America used the bombs in Japan. Since then it was a race to outdo the other with Russia; a race that we were winning. The nuclear race led to innovations of delivery systems of those bombs. In 1957, the Russians successfully launched Sputnik, a rocket propelled satellite into space. It was then Americans realized not only were they hopelessly embarrassed by the technological advances of Russia, but now they had the ability to delivery a nuclear-tipped rocket to the mainland U.S. in just minutes. They had to be one-upped. In comes the Space Race.
Russians launched a satellite in space, the U.S. launches a satellite in space. Russians launch a person in space, U.S. launches a person into space. Russians completes a spacewalk, the U.S. completes a spacewalk. Back and forth it went for years, each time the Americans coming in second. But in this Cold War era, the U.S. could not come in second to Russia in anything. A moon landing would be the homerun we’d need to take the lead for good.
In just 11 years after the United States launched our first rocket into space, and the creation of NASA, and after 13 near perfect test space missions, the U.S. was able to make it to the moon with a crew on board. But going just once wasn’t good enough to secure America’s dominance of victory in making it to the moon. U.S. astronauts would go to the moon six times in three years. The U.S. had won the space race, and the future to the cosmos was ours.
Then reality sat in. The reality as in, if you’ve won a race, there’s no need to run any longer. Kennedy, who didn’t care about space as much as caring about beating Russians, was dead. Further moon exploration wasn’t accomplishing anything significant. And NASA’s free-flow of funding from the national budget was cut drastically after the Apollo program was done. Grant it, there was still missions to be completed, space explorations to be done, we do have an International Space Station, and a previous shuttle program, but nothing as daunting as a moon landing. Without the motivation, and the money, going to the moon was not a priority to the United States government.
But who really needs government. Government money that is. Today, we have a new Space Race. The Billionaire Space Race. Private companies are now throwing their hat into space exploration, along with the government to accomplish further moon exploration. Some people like to think Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos mavericks. Fortunately for them, we have our own “maverick” in the White House. President Trump is set on going back to the moon as well. He set a timeline, which has now been moved up to about five years from now. NASA’s Artemis program (the twin sister to Apollo) will be the next mission to the moon.
But as it stands, we await to see what the future will bring us. For now though, we celebrate the accomplishment that man made 50 years ago. Traveling a 1000 times further than our current International Space Station, to succeed in a feat that several other countries have tried and failed, or just cannot fathom a path to success. Just remember, the United States did it 50 years ago, with technology less than the equivalent of the device you are reading this article. Think about that. That’s what makes it such an achievement.