The Apollo space program stretched from 1961 to 1972, culminating in a dozen men walking on the moon in its final years. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, died Sat., Aug. 25, at age 82. Where are the others today?
America won’t be repeating that historic one small step anytime soon -- not according to NASA chief Charlie Bolden, anyway.
“NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime,” Bolden told a joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board in Washington last week, according to Jeff Foust of SpacePolitics.com. “And the reason is, we can only do so many things.”
Instead, he said the focus would remain on human missions to asteroids and to Mars. “We intend to do that, and we think it can be done.” Meanwhile, interest in the moon has been growing in both the private sector and in foreign countries.
Last week, Russia rekindled its plans for a robotic moon exploration program, unveiling its first new moon mission since the Soviet Union launched Luna 24 in 1976. Russian space scientists are scripting a new plan to reconnect with the moon, one scientist explained.
"Exploration of the moon is an important part of the program," said Igor Mitrofanov of the Institute for Space Research during Microsymposium 54 on "Lunar Farside and Poles — New Destinations for Exploration," held in The Woodlands, Texas, on March 16 and 17.
'I just want to emphasize that Russia is a spacefaring country not only with the robotic but also manned flight," he added.
And private interest in the moon as a resource is heating up. Several companies have announced plans to mine the moon, thought to contain a ransom in precious minerals including titanium, platinum, and helium 3, a rare isotope of helium that many feel could be the future of energy on Earth and in space.
Moon Express, one of the companies targeting the moon and competing in Google's Lunar X Prize to reach our satellite, recently said it plans a mission to begin exploring the moon in 2015.
— Moon Express, Inc. (@Moon_Ex) April 4, 2013
In his remarks last Thursday, NASA’s Bolden acknowledged the widespread interest in the moon from other nations, and said his agency would be willing to help.
“They all have dreams of putting humans on the Moon,” he said. “I have told every head of agency of every partner agency that if you assume the lead in a human lunar mission, NASA will be a part of that. NASA wants to be a participant.”