Until this moment NASA no longer sends humans to the moon. A number of astronauts also opened their voices, they revealed there were three reasons why this happened. The last time humans visited the Moon was in December 1972 during the Apollo 17 mission of the United States Space Agency or NASA.
After Apollo 17, for decades later, NASA planned to send people back to the Moon. But until now, the plan has not been implemented. A number of astronauts then revealed some of the biggest reasons why humans have not yet been sent back to the Moon. Some mentioned the reasons for budget constraints to state politics, as well as about scientific or technical aspects.
Here, 3 reasons why NASA no longer sends humans to the Moon – according to the viewpoints of astronauts and ex-astronauts -, as quoted by Business Insider Singapore, Sunday (07/15/2018).
1. Cost is expensive but a small budget
One of the main obstacles is the issue of budget and costs.
The law signed in March 2017 by US President Donald Trump gave NASA an annual budget of around US $ 19.5 billion, and it would probably increase to US $ 19.9 billion in 2019.
However, the budget must be used to finance all projects currently being carried out by NASA, such as the James Webb Space Telescope, the giant Space Launch System rocket project, and exploration missions to the Sun, Jupiter, Mars, Asteroid Belt, Kuiper Belt, and end of the system Sun.
The principle of ‘big stakes rather than poles’ applies there, given that each project requires a large cost, while NASA’s budget is relatively small – by comparison, the US military gets a budget of around US $ 600 billion per year.
Even unique, NASA’s current budget is relatively small compared to the agency’s budget in the past.
“NASA once received a 4 percent portion of the federal budget in 1965. But now, over the past 40 years, NASA has only got under 1 percent of the federal budget portion. And over the past 15 years, it has been headed for 0.4 percent of the federal budget,” said the ex-astronaut the Apollo 7 mission Walter Cunningham at the US Congress in 2015.
Trump promised to increase NASA’s budget, however, even astronauts felt that it would not be sufficient for all of the agency’s current projects – nor was it enough to finance the mission of sending humans to the Moon.
The 2005 report by NASA estimates that the mission of sending humans back to the Moon will cost around US $ 104 billion (or US $ 133 billion in accordance with inflation this year) for about 13 years.
“Manned exploration is the most expensive space venture and, as a result, the most difficult to get political support,” said Cunningham
“Unless the country – specifically Congress – decides to put more money in it,”
One of President Donald Trump’s government promises is to re-send astronauts to “the Moon and its surroundings” in 2023.
However, that year was the end of the second period of Trump’s presidency – even if he was re-elected in the US Presidential Election 2020.
And therein lies another big problem: politics.
“Why do you believe what the president said about the prediction of something that will happen to the two administrations in the future? (Then) That’s just bullshit,” said Chris Hadfield, former astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA.
From an astronaut’s perspective, Hadfield said, sending humans to the Moon was about missions – designing and testing spacecraft that could get people into outer space. Not a political promises from the president who want to seek office for the second period.
“I want the next president to support a budget that allows us to complete the mission, whatever the mission,” said astronaut Scott Kelly – who spent a year at the International Space Station – in January 2016, in the Reddit Ask Me Anything session.
Nevertheless, the legendary astronaut Buzz Aldrin does not deny that politics plays an important role in the mission of sending humans to the Moon.
“I believe it starts with the commitment of the Congress, bi-partisan government, and the commitment of the government on an ongoing basis,” Aldrin said in a session at the US Congress in 2015.
The real driving force behind the government’s commitment to return to the Moon is the will of the American people, who choose politicians and help shape their policy priorities. But public interest in moon exploration has always been uncertain.
Even at the height of the Apollo program – after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin stepped to the surface of the Moon – only 53 percent of Americans thought the program was worth the cost.
3. Technical Problems
Apart from political and budget issues, there are other obstacles that hinder the mission of sending humans to the Moon today, namely: the fact that the Lunar is a deadly location for astronauts and that should not be underestimated.
Its surface is filled with craters and rocks that threaten a safe landing.
Ahead of the first Moon landing in 1969, the US government spent billions of dollars at today’s exchange rates to develop, launch and send satellites to the Moon and to map its surface and help mission planners find a safe Apollo landing location.
But a bigger concern is regolith, also called Moon dust.
Madhu Thangavelu, an aeronautical engineer at the University of Southern California, wrote in 2014 that the Moon has “a layer of fine dust in several regions and has electro-static properties … capable of damaging spacecraft, vehicles, and other equipment very quickly.”
Peggy Whitson, an astronaut who lived at the International Space Station for a total of 665 days, recently told Business Insider that the Apollo mission “had many problems with dust.”
“If we are going to spend a long time and build permanent habitats, we must find ways to overcome the dust of the Moon,” Whitson said.
There are also problems with sunlight. During the 14.75 days, the surface of the moon is a view of boiling hell exposed directly to hot sun – and the Moon has no protective atmosphere.
While 14.75 the next day, Bulana experienced total darkness, making its surface one of the coldest places in the universe.
A small nuclear reactor developed by NASA, called Kilopower, can supply electricity to astronauts for weeks on the Lunar – and will be useful on missions on other planets, including Mars.
“There is no place that is less environmentally friendly or harder to live than the moon,” Thangavelu wrote. “And again, because it is so close to Earth, there is no better place to learn how to live, far from planet Earth.”
NASA has designed dome and rover resistant to dust and sun, although it is uncertain whether the equipment is ready to launch, because part of it is part of the Constellation program which is now precisely canceled by the US government – for political and budgetary reasons.