U.S. space agency NASA initially set its return to the Moon in 2028. However, in response to Vice President Mike Pence's challenge to uphold NASA's mandate to move the U.S. Space industry forward, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine moved up the target date to 2024.
Considering the mammoth effort of bringing men to the Moon back in the 1960s, one would wonder what's causing the rush this time. First of all, U.S. President Donald Trump might have something to do with it.
In a tweet made earlier this month, the U.S. President shared that he wanted America to return to space in a "BIG WAY."
"Under my Administration, we are restoring NASA to greatness and we are going back to the Moon, then Mars. I am updating my budget to include an additional $1.6 billion so that we can return to Space in a BIG WAY!" Pres. Trump said.
The upcoming Moon mission billed "Artemis" — named after the Greek Moon goddess and the twin sister of Apollo, god of the Sun — is set to be the first lunar mission that will deliver the first woman to the Moon. The first American Moon missions in the 1960s and the 1970s have all been realized with men.
This herculean project will definitely bode well for Trump's administration as it would speak big in terms of his administration's political will and how it acts on momentum. According to Vox, it would make a lot of sense to complete even one moonshot in this administration.
Before Trump, George W. Bush's admin vied for a Moon mission without success, while President Barrack Obama's term veered further into space by working on the start of missions to Mars. NASA has been clamoring for major space missions in recent years as counterparts from other international space agencies have been overshadowing their efforts. In fact, even astronauts headed to the International Space Station (ISS) often rely on hitching an expensive ride on Russian spacecraft just to get to space.
Despite Trump's enthusiasm to make it back to the lunar surface, however, one would wonder how this will be completed. The report described the ongoing preparation for 2024 as "Trumpian" in grandiosity, meaning the plans could be big in papers but also impractical.
Rockets and spacecraft to be used for the mission remain unfinished and even non-existent. And considering the major budget cuts of NASA, one would wonder who will pay for such an ambitious project.
Notwithstanding the challenges, a Moon mission would be a significant study not only in the U.S. but for the rest of the world as well, so pushing for it to happen is understandable.
The Moon would be able to help scientists understand more about the origin and development of the entire solar system. The Moon, dated at around 3.5 billion years old, could tell so much of our celestial history by studying its craters, surface make-up and other important geological aspects.
"The Moon has recorded impact processes that have gone on throughout the entire solar system," Georgiana Kramer, a planetary scientist who has done an extensive study of the Moon, said.
Even small rocks brought back by earlier Moon missions have already helped scientists understand not only how the Moon was formed but also how the Earth likely developed as well. Going back and collecting more samples, especially those from the far side of the Moon, could mean additional historical data that would give scientists like Kramer a more significant POV of how the solar system began and where it will most likely be headed.
An important breakthrough like this would certainly establish America's position as ahead of its pack in the space industry.
This article originally appeared in IBTimes US.