Why agencies did stop going to the moon. For the past few decades no one has visited the moon. December 1972 was the last time humans walked its surface. So why did we stop going to the moon. First let’s rewind, why did NASA even go to the moon in the first place? Sure, it was an extraordinary achievement in 60s but what exactly made people so desperate to get there and now we forgotten all about it today?
One major motivator was the Cold War across the fifties and sixties especially, the Cold War was fought between the US and the USSR via technological one-upmanship in the arms race and the space race. Nuclear weapons were getting more and more powerful. Thankfully that none of them were being used. So both sides decided to use their rockets for something else. Soviets took a sizable early lead in the Space Race. In 1957 they launched the first ever satellite into orbit, Sputnik and later in the same year they sent the first animal into orbit in Sputnik 2. The Soviet probe limited to became the first ever craft to even reach the moon in 1959. Then in 1961, the USSR sent the first man into space and 2 years after that the first woman Valentina Tereshkova.
Well from the first moon landing to the last one in 1972 only 12 people have walked on the moon. The astronauts and even one geologist studied its surface, planted measuring equipment, brought back moon rocks, and stuck a flag in the ground. Well that may not sound like much, originally the space program was an enormous deal. Apollo was against the backdrop of the highly charged Cold War, the most visible marker of which was the Space Race with the Soviet Union. But while the landing changed the world forever, enthusiasm for the space program almost immediately collapsed with the goal having been completed.
After that the number of moon missions planned by other countries grew and grew. Many in the US believe that the relatively symbolic mission was unreasonably expensive. NASA’s budget at its peak in 1966 covered nearly 4.5% of the US’s total federal budget, for more than $40 billion, in today’s terms. In fact although there had been three more Apollo missions planned, they were scrapped in favour of launching Skylab, NASA’s first space station.
In the years to follow the benefit of space stations and the huge amount of cooperation between countries in trying to establish the international space station by the late 90s. Effectively eliminated interest in actually having people on the moon. In fact since 1972 no human has even left low earth orbit, much less reached the moon. By 1973 the Saturn five rocket was retired which was the only one able to produce enough power to make the trip to another celestial body.
But in the mid-2000s, the idea of going back to the moon was reintroduced with the NASA authorization act of 2005. This time the plan wasn’t just to stop by, the act establishing a framework for NASA “Develop a sustained human presence on the moon to promote exploration, science, commerce and US permanence in space.” This resulted in the highly anticipated constellation program, and the creation of new rockets that would rival the Saturn 5.
But unfortunately just three years after constellation was started. The global economic crisis hit by 2010, the Obama administration announced that the program was “Over budget, behind schedule and lacking in innovation”, and constellation was officially defunded, along with a large portion of NASA.
While the organization once comprised nearly 4.5% of the federal budget, by 2011 they were only allocated less than half of 1%. In 2013, NASA’s chief administrator stated that they would not put humans on the moon in his lifetime, although NASA does expect to send people into Mars orbit by the 2030s but that doesn’t rule out the idea completely. Although NASA is unwilling to invest in another trip. The current Japanese space program, JAXA have continued to study the moon, as has the European Space Agency and also ISRO in India. So on an international scale just because we’re no longer sending people moon-wards doesn’t mean we’re not still studying it. Probes and Rovers are simply a much more cost effective and comparatively risk free option compared to humans. They don’t need food, water or oxygen, and there’s zero danger of illness, injury or death.
Russia, China and Japan and the European Space Agency all aimed to send their own astronauts to the moon, with the ESA hoping to establish a moon base within 25 years.