51 years after the first landing on the moon, is there interest in return?
With the world’s attention focused on the 51st anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, what lies ahead with both robotic and human exploration of the moon?
NASA has stated that it wants to see a male and female crew return to the moon as early as 2024.
That is a most ambitious goal and one that will require an astronomical amount of funding and engineering talent.
We are sure of the technology and the passion of many space enthusiasts, but according to some recent polling, only 8% of the people surveyed thought that we should return to the moon.
Many in the space community feel that we should bypass the moon and put a greater emphasis on going directly to Mars.
Both the lunar return mission and one to Mars are major projects, which require an amazing amount of capital and that may place a greater focus on the private sector, like Elon Musk’s Space X and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
Both of these private firms have demonstrated some amazing technology and realistic space goals.
But what about some of the other missions that are headed to the moon?
Recently, India has launched an ambitious lunar mission known as the Chandrayaan 2.
This is a most amazing spacecraft and payload. Once in Earth orbit, the Chandrayaan 2 spacecraft will spend a few weeks there to attain the proper speed to fire its rocket motors towards the moon.
If all this goes well, the craft will attempt to soft land a small lander and rover near the south pole of the moon.
The rover will conduct experiments on lunar soil and send back images for potential future human landings in the future.
There are many future lunar missions scheduled in the next few years and beyond. Here is a graphic, which shows many of these projects.
Other than the glory of a return to the moon, here are some reasons to return to the moon, which may help mankind in many ways.
The surface of the moon is rich in minerals and one isotope known as Helium-3, which may provide much needed answers to our energy needs in the future.
The lunar surface has been bombarded by high energy particles from the sun over a period of billions of years.
Harvesting the Helium-3 isotope on the surface of the moon, may provide solutions to our energy needs.
Unlike most other nuclear-fusion reactions, the fusion of Helium-3 atoms release large amounts of energy without causing the surrounding material to become radioactive, but require larger amounts of heat, than with other fusion reactions.
Here is a brief video on how Heluim-3 moon mining could work:
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