NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) is the organization responsible for the first-ever moon landing in 1969. When Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon for the first time it was just a small step for man, but a giant leap for mankind, as he described it himself. NASA sent a total of 12 astronauts to the Moon between 1969 and 1972. The Apollo missions were then eventually ended after that and so far no human being has been able to cross the low Earth orbit (LEO) ever since.

Only 12 people have ever walked on the Moon. Because the Moon has no atmosphere and experiences no weather, all of their footprints are still in place, like they were there only yesterday.

Now, almost 50 years after the first Moon landing, NASA has been given the task to prepare for another Moon mission by the current President Donald Trump. The only problem with this target is that NASA doesn’t have a permanent administrator to guide the organization in achieving such a gigantic goal. So far, NASA has been changing directions of their work after each new arriving president’s orders. Every new president gives NASA a different task and direction of his vision, which pulls back the organization from achieving their own stated goals.

NASA’s current objective is to prepare for missions to Mars in the 2030s. There is no date specified, however, but NASA is adamant that it is achievable around that time due to rapidly advancing technology. The first Mars-related mission envisioned by NASA involves orbiting the red planet and then returning back home. The next mission is expected to be landing astronauts on Mars and then, hopefully bringing them back home successfully.

The Apollo mission control room at Kennedy Space Center where the lunar landings were orchestrated.

Lori Graver was the deputy administrator at NASA during President Barack Obama’s first term. She believes that NASA can currently accomplish the Moon mission rather easily. They already have a huge rocket under development for Mars mission, which can also be used for a Moon mission as well.

NASA is one of the biggest government-controlled organizations on the planet. It spends nearly $5 billion every year on research and development. While they are constantly working on any number of various projects, the manned mission to space is still its main objective.

Recently, NASA has been paying hundreds of millions of dollars to the Russians to book seats on their Soyuz spacecraft to send American astronauts to the ISS (International Space Station). This international outsourcing is coming to end as private American companies SpaceX and Boeing have now signed contracts with NASA to deliver astronauts to the ISS starting later this year.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket taking off from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Right now, NASA badly needs a permanent administrator to make sure they are on the right course towards achieving that mission. President Trump nominated Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla) in September of last year to be the next chief of NASA. This nomination was strongly contested by other senators who demanded that such important position should not go to a politician.

With other big space exploration companies such as Blue Origin and SpaceX already planning for interplanetary missions, NASA really needs to step up their game. Will NASA be able to achieve another successful Moon mission or not? Only time will tell.

 

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