Neil Armstrong may have been the first man to set foot on the Moon in 1969, but it has been a long time since humankind last took a visit to the Moon. Many people wonder why we have not sent more astronauts to the Moon, especially when the U.S. has already done so twice. A new goal has delayed additional trips to the Moon, and it seems other countries are closer to achieving it than us.
The mission is to send astronauts on missions that will last for months rather than just a few days. Technology today is highly advanced compared to years ago, and the new plan is to create semi-permanent habitats on the Moon. Going into outer space is not like hopping on the next plane. It is a challenging feat to create updated systems for these spaceships, and years of research and work has gone into it.
America’s astronauts have seen the Moon twice; now Russia wants a slice of the pie. The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) leader, Vladimir Solntsev, recently announced they have plans to send a crew to the Moon, landing in 2029. What is even more interesting is that Russia’s Moon squad will be the world’s first space crew to be all female. Valentina Tereshkova was the first female Russian in space during 1963. In the past fifty years, only four women have traveled into space, and the country appears to want to make up for lost time by working on this experiment.
Solntsev mentioned that they had their hands full working on a spacecraft for the mission in Moscow where initial flight testing begins in 2021. Six Russian women were locked in a suite at Moscow’s Institute of Biomedical Problems on October 28, 2015. It will be the start of an eight-day experiment that will simulate the conditions of space to help the ladies adjust. The director of the project, Sergei Ponomaryov stated, “We consider the future of space belongs equally to men and women and unfortunately we need to catch up a bit after a period when unfortunately there haven’t been too many women in space.”
The next test drive is predicted to occur in 2021, then again in 2023 at the International Space Station. Another unmanned mission to the Moon is planned to take place by 2025. The ladies in the project all have bright backgrounds, in either biophysics or medicine. The announcement regarding an all-female team was exciting for many people but worrisome to others. Some asked how the women will wash their hair, put on makeup, and live without men. Anna Kussmaul, who will be participating in the mission, countered, “We are doing work. When you’re doing your work, you don’t think about men and women.”
The European Space Agency (ESA) decided they wanted to join Russia’s mission to start small habitats on the Moon and will be providing their exceptional technical skills. The ESA may just be the perfect team for them; after all, they were the first to land a spaceship on a comet. The leader of the ESA, Bérengère Houdou, said they have an ambition to have European astronauts on the Moon. Roscosmos is also planning to send Luna 27, a lander, to the south pole of the Moon by 2024. The program they are constructing will have other smaller projects, like Luna 25 and Luna 26. The goal is to send a lunar lander to one of the poles of the Moon as well as a lunar spacecraft in the Moon’s orbit. When it lands, the machine will take a look at the lunar surface for future lunar bases. The lander mission was originally talked about in 1997 but never came to light due to delays. However, a Russian and European partnership to run the dark side of the Moon may be the perfect combination to get the ball rolling.
This mindset is very different than ones common in the middle of the 20th century. Such cooperation can be attractive as is evidenced by China’s statement that they want to create a joint lunar station. Dmitry Rogozin, Deputy Prime Minister accountable for supervising defense-related policies, adds that a trio could be possible. Russia and Europe are currently still discussing whether to include another country. The Russians did get a chance to meet up with Wang Yang, one of China’s Vice Premiers of China, on April 28, 2015. Rogozin mentioned they “have told China of our plans on the possibility of creating a Russian national orbital station.”
The Chinese Lunar Exploration Program established the Chinese Lunar Exploration Program (CLEP) also known as the Chang’e program back in 2007. The goal of the program was to release a series of probes into the lunar orbit then send them to the surface. The latest probe China sent out, where it landed on the Moon in 2013 was a success, and the country has plans to complete a sample return sometime in 2017. The CLEP hopes their probes will become the ultimate pathway that will help people travel to the Moon.
With all this outer space activity, do not think that the U.S. is hovering in the background. America’s space agency, NASA, persists in looking at the planet Mars. NASA plan to send their astronauts to the Moon around 2030. Charles Bolden, NASA’s administrator, did provide, in brisk detail, what expedition they plan on doing. He states rather than focusing on the Moon like the other countries are doing, all their efforts will be going to the red planet. Venturing to Mars is perhaps a more dangerous mission than traveling to the Moon, but NASA is currently working on systems and spacecrafts to make the journey as safe as possible.