Moon landing: Why has man NOT returned to the moon 50 years on | Science | News

Man first set foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969, the culmination of decades of technological advancement in the US. The Apollo 11 Moon mission paved the way for a new era for space-age technology, with more lofty targets for NASA and their competitors hoping to copy their success. These targets included several Mars rover landings, probe launches to faraway planets and the discovery of distant galaxies. Man landed on the moon another five times between after 1959, but no-one has been back since 1972.

Why has man not returned to the Moon?

The Apollo 11 was the first crewed ship to land on the Moon in 1969, and its crew Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin the first people to set foot on its surface.

After them, five other crewed landings took place during November 1969, February and August 1971, and April and December 1972.

NASA hasn’t returned to the moon because the political landscape has changed since 1959.

READ MORE: How NASA made ‘puzzling’ discovery

NASA’s first Moon landing came under pressure from the Soviet Union, which launched Yuri Gagarin into space on April 12, 1961, at the height of the Cold War.

After the Bay of Pigs operation failed to destabilise Castro’s regime in Cuba, incumbent President John F Kennedy was looking to restore faith in the government.

His answer to this was putting a man on the Moon, which not only showed US technological superiority, but also his administration’s success in executing objectives of national importance.

Since the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has had no political need to return to the Moon, and so NASA turned its attention towards other objectives.

READ MORE: Apollo 11 was NASA’s ‘greatest achievement 

Teasel Muir-Harmony, a curator of space history at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC, said the Moon landings were JFK’s alternative solution to armed conflict.

She told CNET: “Kennedy was motivated by the Cold War, by how he thought the United States had to secure its position within world affairs.

“Kennedy’s closest advisers, speechwriters and confidants say that one-two punch of Gargarin’s flight and then the Bay of Pigs really taught him that military intervention was not necessarily going to succeed within this Cold War context.

“Instead they needed to pursue other approaches to political problems.”

READ MORE: How NASA invented new mathematics to get to the Moon

NASA hasn’t forgotten the Moon altogether, as the agency has pledged to return by 2024.

Their next Moon mission is titled Project Artemis and aims to land the “first woman and the next man” on the Moon, with the view to build a sustainable mission on the lunar surface.

NASA hopes to build a base on the satellite and facilitate the development of commercial industry between the Earth and Moon.

The hurdle mission planners now need to navigate is how to make this mission objective a reality.

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