Gene Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon, but will not be the last, and next the time the U.S. plans on staying longer. Accomplishing that feat will be NASA partnered with private firms like Space X, whose Falcon 9 rocket has become the workhorse of the U.S. space program, and companies that can design and build landers capable of transporting astronauts from a spacecraft to the lunar surface and back. Companies hoping to partner with the nation’s preeminent agency for all things space include Astrobotic, Moon Express and Masten Space Systems.
Astrobotic CEO John Thornton says the first missions, coming up soon, will not initially involve putting more footprints on the moon. His company is developing the Peregrine Lander. “The first robotic missions are going to land about 2020, and that’s going to be a mix of science instruments and rovers, even time capsules and marketing experiences - a whole array of packages that will be sent up to the surface,” he tells NewsRadio 740 KTRH. Then the serious work involving man’s return to the moon picks up in earnest.
Within ten years Thornton says he expects manned missions to begin drawing out lunar resources. “The moon has vast quantities of water at the poles, and if you can get that water and split it and condense it you have rocket fuel. So the moon could become a gas station for spacecraft and things that are going deep into space,” he says. Top of the priority list will include determining which pole is best for building a long-term production plant.
July 20, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s first setting foot on the moon, a perfect time to begin launching American dreams of future space conquest.