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We are going back!

20 May 2019

We're less than two months away from the 50th anniversary of the first footprint made by man on the surface of the moon.

I fondly remember the 1960s, when anything and everything was possible.

Hell, even the iceblocks we used to enjoy on those long hot days of the Christmas holidays were shaped like a spaceship and we knew that the moon would be just a stepping stone on our way to "Mars and beyond"!

Our first manned landing on the moon was on July 20th, 1969. Actually, I think it was July 21st in this part of the world because I recall that it was morning, very early morning, the sun wasn't even up in Australia and it would have been 8:17am here in NZ.

The actual "first footstep" didn't take place until over six hours later and over 600 million people watched on via a grainy, low resolution television image that was broadcast around the world.

Yep, it all happened nearly half a century ago.

Boy, do I feel old!

There were another six manned lunar missions which followed in quick succession and all, aside from the ill-fated Apollo 13, were successful.

Landing men on the moon using the incredibly crude technologies of the 1960s was a big enough challenge. Doing it six times was a bloody miracle!

And then, just when (as a young lad) I was waiting for us to set our sights on sending men to Mars... nothing.

The whole concept of manned space exploration just fell apart.

It was almost a case of "been there, done that, got the spacesuit".

Once sending men to the moon became routine, the public lost interest and without a huge groundswell of public support, the funding dried up.

I also suspect that there was a fair bit of "let's quit while we're ahead" thinking going on within the halls of power. After all, the USA had beaten those damned Ruskies, honoured Kennedy's promise and shown their superiority. From that position of dominance and prowess, the only way would be down -- so better just to stop trying.

It's also quite possible that the scientists began to realise that putting a man on Mars was orders of magnitude more difficult than putting men on the moon and therefore, despite all the promises and claims, the technology just wasn't there.

So for the past more than 40 years, the furthest man has gone from home is a few hundred Km above the surface of the planet. That's peanuts compared to space!

But now, NASA has been reinvigorated and has a renewed agenda to put man(kind) back on the moon.

Apparently, it's only going to take another five years before we're back on familiar soil, playing golf on the waterless seas and doing some off-roading with the old space-buggy.

You know what... I don't think it'll happen... at least not in the proposed timeframe.

Maybe Trump is trying to do a Kennedy and make a more positive mark in the history books but I believe that 2024 will come and go without any more US footprints on the lunar surface.

In fact, I'd say that China is more likely to throw a few bodies at the moon than is the USA.

But hey, I could be wrong (it happens all the time).

I am one of the biggest space-exploration fans that has ever been but even I have to ask, what's the justification?

Political point-scoring aside, surely there are a whole lot more critical issues to be addressed right here on earth or more to gained by further exploration of possible life-bearing bodies within the solar system, such as Europa, Enceladus or Titan.

What do readers think?

Has it really been half a century since we landed on the moon?

Is a manned return to the moon really the best use of our limited space exploration budgets?

Were you as passionately interested in space exploration as I was as a kid?

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