Today I Discovered Why Humans Haven't Landed On The Moon In 45 Years

Sending man to the moon and back is one of humanity's greatest achievements. Sadly, despite massive advances in space technology, this feat has't been repeated since the Apollo 17 mission more than 45 years ago. Today I discovered why not.

Business Insider recently collected the testimony of astronauts explaining why nobody has been to the moon since 1972. The reasons are depressingly mundane, and basically come down to budgetary and political hurdles.

“NASA’s portion of the federal budget peaked at 4% in 1965," Apollo 7 astronaut Walter Cunningham explained during a 2015 congressional testimony. "For the past 40 years it has remained below 1%, and for the last 15 years it has been driving toward 0.4% of the federal budget.

“Manned exploration is the most expensive space venture and, consequently, the most difficult for which to obtain political support.”

Yes, it's expensive to get to the moon – but it's not that expensive. The problem is that NASA’s budget is just insufficiently low.

Another problem is the US electoral system - it can take more than a decade to properly design, engineer and test a spacecraft that could take astronauts to the moon. US presidents are therefore reluctant to back a space mission that will occur after their term in office. Compounding the problem, there's a pattern of incoming presidents and lawmakers scrapping the previous leader’s space-exploration priorities.

In short, America's political parties need to come together if a return to the moon can ever hope to be fully funded. In 2015, the second man on the moon, Buzz Aldrin, suggested just that in a prepared statement to congress.

“American leadership is inspiring the world by consistently doing what no other nation is capable of doing. We demonstrated that for a brief time 45 years ago. I do not believe we have done it since,” Aldrin wrote. “I believe it begins with a bi-partisan Congressional and Administration commitment to sustained leadership.”

Finally, there is also the obvious dangers involved, and the fact that American voters don't seem to care that much.

As BI notes, directly after the first-ever moon landing, US approval of the Apollo program sat at just 53% - which is the highest it's ever been. In a recent Pew Research Center poll, approximately 44% of people surveyed thought that NASA should never send astronauts back to the moon again.

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Today I Discovered is a daily dose of facts for Lifehacker readers - the weird, wonderful and sometimes worrying. Most of the time, it's just mind-blowing. Let us know if you discovered anything that blew your mind in the comments!

[Via Business Insider]


Comments

    600 billion on defense. Over 34% of budget. No healthcare. Poverty. Priorities all
    screwed up.

    I can think of another reason! Anyone care to guess?

      NASA doesn't have a cool name like "Space Force"

    I can't see any good reason to do it all again.A complete waste of money the first time which should have been spent on better things.Time to shut down NASA

      The reason to do it is humanities survival into the future depends on it, but maybe you only care about yourself and not humanities future. Planet Earth will not support life forever, it is enevitable to colonise new worlds or go extinct.

      Just off the top of my head:

      The ability to live in more hostile environments
      The ability to transfer people in and out of hostile environments
      improvements in sensors
      improvements in electrical systems operating in hostile environments
      improvements in energy storage and energy generation technology in environments isolated from a major grid infrastructure
      improvements in the ability to set up new infrastructure in environments with limited available resources/equipment
      improvements in navigation systems
      improvements in basic resource (oxygen, water etc) generation/recycling

      All of these would apply in any long-term space flight and off-world landing program...as well as addressing alot of the issues in today's cities

      Time to shut down NASA

      Oh how ignorance is bliss.

      We really should question why you feel so threatened by NASA? Do you see scientific fact as dangerous to you?

    Moon landings eventually stopped because the US won the space race vs the Soviets. Going to the moon was always more about showing them up than it was about exploring space.

    This is nonsense. The NASA budget adjusted for inflation has never been higher. The last thing they need is more money. The reason humans haven't been back to the moon is that they shouldn't have gone in the first place. The scientific value of those missions is questionable and it was extremely dangerous. Apollo 11 was probably 50/50 at best. No one at NASA would back a manned mission now with such a low chance of success.

      You need a fact check:
      -The NASA budget adjusted for inflation has never been higher: Not true. Adjusted for inflation, the highest was 1966, at 43 billion USD in 2014 dollars. Currently, it's about 18-20 billion.

      -The scientific value: really? You should google before you say that.
      https://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/news/series/moon/first_lunar_program.html
      https://www.nasa.gov/50th/50th_magazine/lunarExploration.html

      The apollo missions lead to some extremely valuable findings, including better satellite systems, better understanding of gravity, how the moon affects the tides, better understanding of orbit, better photographs of the earth, better flight systems, and more.

      -Dangerous vs Success: Of course it's dangerous, but less than you think, and the program probably saved more people than killed. Apollo 11 was not 50/50 for success or death. The odds of death at that point was actually very low. There have been only 18 deaths from space travel; the vast majority of which have happen after the apollo program.

      Overall, the space program has result in spin off tech that has saved a large number of lives. Memory foam, freeze dried food, cochlear implants, vascular bypass, LASIC, "space blankets, anti-icing for aircrafts, better tires, landmine removal methods, safety groves in roads, firefighting methods, shock absorbers to resist earthquakes, water purification, GPS, and more are NASA spinoffs.

      I wholly endorse the NASA budget.

    So, it's all America's fault - got it. The headline should then read "Today I Discovered Why Americans Haven't Landed On The Moon In 45 Years". No one stopping another country from doing it. Step up Australia!

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