Why Should We Return to the Moon?
As discussed in my previous article, humans first landed on the Moon in 1969 and returned for a few more manned missions through Apollo 17 in December of 1972. Three and a half years and then we stopped.
So, why did we stop, and is there sufficient reason to send humans to the Moon once again? Let’s dig in!
I’m sure that policymakers thought about a number of things that we had learned and experienced during the Space Race. First of all, we had a lot of unsuccessful missions. We had learned a lot and our success rate was a lot higher by the 70s, but still.
It was hard enough when the mission didn’t contain any human passengers. The work of so many people, costing millions of dollars, all lost in an unsuccessful mission. We still learned from those failed missions, but it was hard to argue that during a budget review. To also have to worry about the loss of human life was a big toll.
Even if the mission succeeds, it will cost more money and have higher risks. Why? All of the things humans need to stay alive versus robots and equipment. We need food, water, liveable environments, potential hygienic options. All of these concerns are not as costly or important for robots and equipment.
All of these factors weighed heavily on the decision to stop human missions to the moon, but the main reason we stopped was the political climate. We had completed what we had set out to do: win the Space Race. We didn’t want the USSR having control of the Moon and didn’t want to have the global society as seeing us fail in this mission… to the USSR. We had completed that mission and therefore spending money on further human missions to the moon and beyond was useless.
However, we didn’t completely stop human spaceflight missions. As touched upon in my previous article on women in space, the USSR turned their focus to space stations and so did we in response. Skylab launched in 1983 and was manned and then the focus shifted to the space shuttles.
When the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, the competition turned into cooperation and we turned the failed plans for Space Station Freedom into the International Space Station which…