Manned Moon Mission A No Go, Says NASA’s Charles Bolden
Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
We are less than a week away from the third anniversary of President Barack Obama´s Kennedy Space Center speech where he announced ambitious goals to launch a human mission to an asteroid in 2025 and to further work toward a manned Mars mission. And while some would like to see humans return to the Moon, the President said during that April 2010 speech: “We´ve been there before. Buzz has been there. There´s a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do.”
One person who believes a manned Moon mission should be reconsidered spoke at a joint meeting of the Space Studies Board and the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB) in Washington last Thursday.
Al Carnesale, Chancellor Emeritus and Professor at UCLA, said since the asteroid mission goal was announced in 2010, there continued to have been less enthusiasm for it from the community on a broad scale. “The more we learn about it, the more we hear about it, people seem less enthusiastic about it.”
According to SpacePolitics.com, Carnesale suggested that it might be better to now shelve the asteroid plans in favor of a return to the Moon.
“There´s a great deal of enthusiasm, almost everywhere, for the Moon,” he said during the meeting. “I think there might be, if no one has to swallow their pride and swallow their words, and you can change the asteroid mission a little bit“¦ it might be possible to move towards something that might be more of a consensus.”
But those words were not met with acceptance from another speaker at the meeting: NASA´s chief administrator Charles Bolden.
Bolden noted that a number of nations have already expressed interest in human lunar exploration, adding that they “all have dreams of putting human on the Moon.” Bolden added that he has adamantly expressed to all partner agencies that “if you assume the lead in a human lunar mission, NASA will be a part of that. NASA wants to be a participant.”
However, he made it clear that NASA has no plans to lead in human exploration of our lunar neighbor. “NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things.”
With that, Bolden remains clearly focused on human missions to asteroids and to Mars. “We intend to do that, and we think it can be done.”
Bolden had a stark warning to members of the meeting, saying that if the next administration tries to revert back to a manned lunar mission, than it is likely that “in our lifetime, in the lifetime of everybody sitting in this room, we are probably never again going to see Americans on the Moon, on Mars, near an asteroid, or anywhere. We cannot continue to change the course of human exploration.”
Russia remains one of NASA´s partner space agencies committed to lunar exploration.
Last week, Russian space agency Roscosmos announced plans to send a robotic explorer to the Moon, which will be the first lunar mission since the Soviet Union launched Luna 24 back 1976.
As well, private interest in the Moon as a resource is also revving up.
Several companies have announced plans to mine the Moon, which is thought to contain a treasure trove of precious metals and minerals that could aid in earthen technologies.
Google´s Lunar X Prize Foundation is helping some companies reach their dreams.
Moon Express is one company targeting the Moon and is competing for the Google Prize. It recently announced its plans for a mission to the Moon to begin in 2015.
The last human presence on the Moon occurred in December 1972, when Apollo 17 crew members, Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt landed on the lunar surface, spending roughly three days collecting samples and doing experiments. The overall mission lasted around 12 days, with the crew returning to Earth on December 19, 1972.
No man has set foot on the Moon since.