The United States’ ever-changing space strategy may cause the next moon landing to be postponed

On 14 December 1972, Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt launched their lunar module Challenger from Taurus-Littrow valley on Moon. They splattered down securely in the Pacific 5 days later bringing the Apollo 17 flight to a close and making them the last humans to reach the lunar surface or travel outside the low-Earth orbit. Now, Nasa’s international Artemis plan aims to re-establish a human presence on the Moon by the year 2024. However, it is becoming more likely that this goal will be missed.

History has shown how fragile space programs are, requiring years of preparation and construction across several administrations. Nasa had ambitions for many more lunar Apollo missions after the Apollo 17, such as a potential flyby of Venus. Budget cuts and a reprioritization of human spaceflight to concentrate on the Skylab venture in the 1970s, however, prevented any additional lunar missions at the period. President HW Bush did not launch the Space Exploration Program until 20 July 1989, the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 touchdown. This entailed the building of the Freedom space station, which would later be an International Space Station, to return people to the Moon and, ultimately, crewed missions to the Mars.

The venture was supposed to take about 30 years to complete. In the late 1990s, the first human return missions to the Moon will occur, accompanied by the creation of the lunar base in the 2010s. The total cost of the project, including the Mars missions, was expected to be US$500 billion spread out over 20 to 30 years. Despite the fact that this amount was a portion of what will be allocated to the Iraq War in the year 2003, the project faced criticism in the Senate and was eventually terminated by the Clinton admin in the year 1996.

After another 8 years, President George W. Bush unveiled a revitalized Vision for the Space Exploration in the year 2004, partially in reaction to the Space Shuttle Columbia tragedy. As a result, Nasa launched the Constellation program, which would oversee the finalization of the International Space Station as well as the eventual retirement of the Space Shuttle. Altair Lunar Surface Access Module and The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle are the two latest crewed spacecraft that will be developed as part of the project.

Orion was supposed to be built by the year 2008, with the very first crewed flight taking place no later than 2014 and the very first astronauts landing on the Moon by the year 2020. A modern series of launchers known as Ares will be designed to lift the Orion as well as Altair spacecraft, with the Ares V having lift capacity more similar to the giant Saturn V rockets of the Apollo period.

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