It has been more than 50 years since the first human landed on the Moon, the nearest celestial neighbour of planet Earth. As American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin roamed around the bleak landscape of the moon in 1969, the former’s famous words – “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” – were etched in the minds of people worldwide for generations. America’s first moon mission had captured the imagination of everyone around the world.
The very fact that humans could step out of earth into the moon and come back alive was in itself an amazing achievement. While many celebrated this, there were others who stared at their television screens with mixed feelings of disillusionment and fascination as Aldrin and Armstrong carefully walked around the rocky surface of the moon.
Armstrong’s words ring profoundly true even half a decade later as his moon landing continues to inspire subsequent generations to dream of walking on the moon. Humankind’s fascination with the moon has not dimmed in the last 50 years. If anything, it has only convinced humans that no territory in space is out of reach.
With plans of recreating the moon mission in 2024, NASA is mobilizing its funds and workforce to achieve another feat for the scientific world. While NASA had earlier planned to bring the moon mission to fruition in 2028, the space research agency has brought forward its plans to 2024 on the orders of President Trump’s administration.
The newest moon mission, titled the Artemis program, has an expected budget of US$28 billion. Amid the ongoing economic problems in the US following the pandemic, it is difficult to ensure the mobilization of enough funds to carry forward this crucial and historic mission. In a society where public health is a priority, space research is expected to take a backseat. Yet, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is hopeful that the allocation of US$3.2 million set the ball rolling for the production of human-rated lunar landers, crucial equipment needed in a manned mission to the moon.
NASA has accepted the challenge of achieving the targets of its future space missions on an accelerated graph, cutting down the deadline by half and cutting four years out of the schedule. For the next decade or so, NASA will be focusing on establishing new rules of sustainable exploration. It has planned to refine its budget and architecture for the next few months, trying to find a way to make space research feasible and sustainable for a struggling economy.
NASA is also planning its first manned mission on Mars while simultaneously planning the launch of Artemis III which will land the next humans on moon. The world has to wait till 2024 to see how far does NASA go in achieving success in its new space missions.