When NASA landed the first man on the Moon on July 20, 1969, the whole world held its collective breath. Then, between 1969 and 1972, five more manned crews landed on the Moon never to go back – until now. NASA will return to the Moon under Apollo’s sister programme Artemis, which was first set in motion by President Donald Trump in December 2018. Artemis will return men to the Moon and land the first woman on the Moon in the coming years, with the first robotic mission scheduled for a 2024 launch.
Lembit Öpik, Chairman of Parliament for the space nation Asgardia, believes NASA is now in a good position to resume Moon landing operations.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Öpik has argued spaceflight technology and the cheaper cost of launching rockets is key to Artemis being a success.
These key factors further extend into NASA’s goal of building a Lunar Gateway space station near the Moon to serve as a stepping stone to Mars and beyond.
Mr Öpik said: “It’s easy to dismiss Trump on all accounts but if you actually look at what he’s saying about Artemis and endorsing America’s potential return it makes great sense in three ways.
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“First of all, it’s actually cheaper to get to the Moon now then it was back then because technology makes it more achievable.
“Secondly, in some sense, it’s got more long-term application because it can be a stepping stone to Mars.”
Mr Öpik argued going to Mars from the Moon is more sensible than going to Mars directly from Earth.
With the Moon only experiencing one-sixth of the gravity of Earth, the conditions are favourable for cheaper and more efficient rocket launches.
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If NASA can successfully explore the surface of the Moon for resources, the space agency could effectively establish a refuelling stop at the Lunar Gateway, allowing for easy launches into the solar system.
According to Mr Öpik, gravity “is the enemy” of efficient resource use.
Because of this, he argued travelling light to the Moon from Earth to then travel heavy from the Moon to Mars “makes sense”.
He said: “And the third reason is because Artemis is actually versatile, it’s not like the Lunar Module – a one-hit-wonder.”
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NASA’s Lunar Module spacecraft used in the Apollo programme was a marvel of engineering at the time
Mr Öpik said the Lunar Module was a “big hit” but the spacecraft was also very limited in its capabilities.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine recently outlined why the Apollo-era technology is simply no longer good enough for NASA’s modern needs.
One of the main concerns is the Lunar Module’s lack of versatility – all Apollo Moon landings were tied to very specific flight trajectories around the Moon’s equator.
Mr Öpik said Apollo’s spacecraft was a “big hit” but the technology developed for Artemis promises to be an even bigger one.