NASA will land humans on the Moon again, confirmed American Vice President Mike Pence in a speech yesterday.
Speaking at NASA, the Vice President revealed that the Trump administration will ask NASA to direct its efforts into establishing a permanent base on the lunar surface.
This is a major policy change from the Obama administration which directed NASA to divert all its efforts to getting humans to Mars.
While Mars is still very much on the agenda, it now looks as though the Moon will become the first step in that journey.
Speaking at the National Space Council meeting, Vice President Pence said that for too long America had not travelled beyond our own orbit.
You can watch the entire speech here:
Initially NASA had planned to test out its Mars mission by sending astronauts to an asteroid, however this will now be scrapped in favour of lunar missions instead.
How will NASA land humans on the Moon?
While there’s no official word from NASA it seems likely that the organisation will simply use the same spacecraft that it is currently developing for Mars: Orion and the Space Launch System rocket.
This would also tie in rather nicely with NASA’s recent agreement with Russia’s own space agency Roscosmos to build a Deep Space Gateway space station either on the lunar surface or orbiting around it.
Interestingly, the origins of both Orion and the SLS lie with the Moon. Both programs had initially been given the green light by the Bush administration as part of an earlier restarting of the lunar mission program.
When was the last Moon mission?
The last time humans landed on the Moon was Apollo 17, in 1972.
It was a mission of endings as well, marking the last time that the Apollo spacecraft and Saturn V rocket would be used to send humans to the Moon. It was also the last time that humans travelled beyond low-Earth orbit.
Apollo 17 was also a mission filled with records. It was the longest Moon landing, contained the longest Moonwalks and involved the longest time spend in lunar orbit.
The Saturn V was, at the time, the most powerful rocket humanity had ever created. It is only in the last few years with the development of the Space Launch System and SpaceX’s BFR that we will actually see rockets equal or exceed the Saturn V’s lifting capabilities.
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