I was just a young man when the Eagle landed on the moon as Apollo 11 stayed in orbit. And who can’t still remember those immortal words that Neil Armstrong spoke as he became the first human to set foot on the moon, “One small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.” That was on July 20, 1969. The last moon walk happened in 1972 and I’m still waiting for that “…giant leap…” to come about. When Neil Armstrong spoke those words, I don’t think he could have imagined that the moon missions would end a short three years later. What a bitter disappointment that must have been. All that work and risk for just a few moon walks.
The United States was far ahead of any nation on Earth in 1969 as far as space exploration was concerned, but NASA squandered everything it had learned when it abandoned the moon missions.The U.S. could have developed the technology to build a moon base. Instead, NASA opted for the Space Shuttle and a wasted a generation. What could the Shuttle do except fly around the Earth in a low space orbit. Good for sight seeing and science projects, I guess. But not much else.
Who would have fixed the Hubble Telescope, you may ask. That telescope could have been built on the far-side of the moon within easy reach of technicians. Instead of orbiting the Earth, it would be 250,000 miles from the Earth.
When the U.S. landed on the moon, it should have stayed there and eventually build a base. If that had happened, Americans would be on Mars right now, using the moon as their base. By now, we could have gotten the trip from Earth to the moon down to two days. Then use the moon as a launching point to the rest of the galaxy. We would be doing what Captain Kirk had said, “To boldly go where no man has gone before.”
NASA, however, lost 37 years when it went with the development and limited use of the Space Shuttle. Plus, the International Space Station under construction today will one day, as its orbit decays, crash into the Earth. This will never happen to the moon base. The Space Station and the Shuttle are little more than a waste of time and money.
Now we are talking about 2015 as a target date to get to the moon, AGAIN! And 2020 to get Americans on Mars. I think those dates are too optimistic. And we seem to be worried about the Chinese beating us to the moon. If NASA had stuck with the moon after 1972, Americans would be on Mars and beyond by now. That, indeed, would have been a “One giant leap for mankind.”