Commentary: Another Apollo 11 Anniversary — Will We Go Back?

Commentary: Another Apollo 11 Anniversary — Will We Go Back?

Editor’s Commentary

As the space community celebrates the 41st anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the Moon today, the perennial question of whether or when American astronauts will return to the lunar surface remains as open as ever.

President Obama said on April 15 at Kennedy Space Center that putting people on the Moon, basically is, like, sooo 20th Century. Instead, asteroids should be the next destination for human spaceflight in his view. The Senate and House each have NASA authorization bills, however, that do not preclude a return to the Moon. In fact, returning to the Moon is already the law of the land. The 2005 NASA authorization act directs NASA to “develop a sustained human presence on the Moon” and the 2008 NASA authorization act reaffirms the 2005 law, as well as broadening it to include other destinations beyond low Earth orbit. Back to the Moon, or not? Which end of Pennsylvania Avenue will win the day this time?

Perhaps the most stressful aspect of this anniversary is that the debate remains unresolved four decades later. Whiplashing from one set of goals to another seems the best that policy-makers can do.

Setting that aside, congratulations to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Mike Collins, and all who made the Apollo 11 mission and those that followed it possible. While the policy community seems unable to make a decision that sticks, the engineers and scientists of Apollo turned a dream into reality in just 8 years.

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