NASA's bid to get humans back to the moon
NASA's bid to get humans back to the moon
5:20

NASA's bid to get humans back to the moon

Science
Tonight the moon. We landed there in 1969 and we're heading back. A lot can change in four decades. How do we get there? Is the flag still upright? What exactly happened to the lunar module after Stanley Kubrick stopped filming In the moon landing. I'm Claire Reilly, welcome to Watch This Space. [MUSIC] From the CNET studios in Sydney, this is your guide to everything on Earth you need to know about space. And tonight, Moon 2.0. Ever since the United States America'd the hell out of the lunar surface in 1969, we have been fascinated with something on that giant sky rock once more. After all, who wouldn't want to take another giant leap for mankind and follow in the footsteps of two guys named Buzz and Armstrong? I mean, Buzz, you literally can't make this stuff up. Let's recap. The Moon was big in the 60s. For a generation obsessed with science and innovation, it was something to strive for, something to spur on innovation, and, of course, a way to prove to the Soviets that America could own the sky. Starting in 1959, the Soviet Union and the United States were neck-and-neck in a race to reach the moon. The Soviets did a flyby, so the US did a flyby. They had a booster malfunction, we had a launchpad explosion. They sent a dog to space, and instead of saying, hey, guys, maybe this is escalating, we sent a chimp. During the 60s while the jocks were cheering on the Packers and the hippies were protesting Vietnam, those quite nerds at NASA and the Soviet Space Programs sent more than 40 missions to the Moon. By 1969 the entire world had Moon fever. The only cure, take two men and send them to the lunar surface. But just like a kid trying to steal his brother's ice cream, by the time we got the moon, we didn't really want it anyway. After the Apollo 11 landing in 69, the U.S. sent five more crewed landings to the Moon, officially bringing its astronauts back for the last time by Christmas 1972. Memories. But our love affair with the Moon isn't over yet. After all that time, we're heading back. And no, it's not because Armstrong left his wallet behind. It's because we want to get to Mars, and the best way to get there is to go to the Moon first. It's all part of Space Policy Directive One signed by US President Donal Trump late in 2017. Which aims to get humans back into space and further into the solar system. We will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint. We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps some day to many worlds beyond. To do that NASA has outlined an ambitious exploration campaign including multiple missions into space. First off, the moon, then mars, then stop for snacks at Jupiter, then until morning. The exploration campaign has some big goals including sending humans on long term missions orbiting around the moon Sending robots to the Moon's surface, and then eventually getting humans back on the lunar surface too. To do all that, NASA is going to build a lunar orbital platform gateway. It's a mouthful, but think of it as a solar powered space station that will orbit around the Moon like the last outpost of humanity in a space Western. After we've built this star gate, or more accurately moon gate, NASA will have a base to conduct missions, and get humans back to the moon. I know what you're gonna say, is this about the moon, or Mars? Is this Ryan Gossling, or Matt Damon situation? But you can relax viewers, NASA has room in its plans for both of those space hunks. NASA is moving to Mars in stages. When the first parts of the station launch in 2022, the Lunar Gateway will provide communications between spacecraft to the moon and back to Earth. It'll also allow NASA to transfer large packets of data back from space with lasers. Because lasers are awesome. From 2024, the Gateway could support a crew, letting astronauts work in space for long stretches at at time. And with the addition of an air lock in the future, crew could also do space walks. From there, the space sky is the limit. NASA is currently working to develop lunar landers to run missions to the surface of the moon, for research and even prospecting. Because if Armageddon taught us anything, it's that sending miners into space always ends well. [MUSIC] That is my father. All that research, crew support, and communications capability is really gonna help us long term as we start to plan missions to Mars. Afterall the last time we landed on anything in space, Atari had this really cool new game called Pong. So yeah, the tech wasn't so great. But we still have a long way to go before we get to Mars, quite literally. The distance from Earth to the moon is about a quarter of a million miles. The distance between Earth and Mars on a good day, 33.9 million miles. Those first Martian astronauts are gonna have a lot of time to catch up on their emails. But, for NASA, the Moon makes sense. We can test out new tech, set up comms, and work on our astronaut space legs before we take the long haul to the red planet. It's kinda like pitching a tent in the backyard before you go on a big camping trip. Sure, you're closer to home and the conditions are a bit different, And your sister won't tell you that she's hidden the tent pegs and then later tell you that she forgot to bring them. So you have to hike to the next campsite over but your dad's already left. And you're on Mars and it's getting dark, and you don't have a tent and I haven't forgotten Janet. That the moon is the next best thing. So we're still going to Mars, we just gonna pop by the moon on the way. After all, the moon probably misses us after all these years. About time we paid it a visit. All right, that's it for this week's edition of Watch This Space. I'm Claire Reilly for CNet, goodnight moon, and god speed.

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