Space

The United States wants to "return to the moon" in five years. Will it work or not?

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first landing onThe moon and an important turning point in world history. The Israeli robotized mission “Bereshit” has just arrived at lunar orbit with a landing scheduled for April 11, making Israel the fourth country to land on the lunar surface. And this is after the incredible landing of China on the reverse side of the moon in January.

This new space race has recently promptedUS Vice President Mike Pence to offer another manned mission to the moon over the next five years. But is his proposal reasonable, given that no one sent people there since 1972? Does it make sense to do this scientifically?

Why fly to the moon?

If governments fail when it comescomes to human space exploration programs; they do not understand the level of time and commitment required to succeed. This new proposal follows the request of US President Donald Trump in 2017: to carry out a manned mission with a landing on Mars until the end of his first term (2020).

But this task is even more difficult than manned.mission to the moon: the time to reach the Red Planet varies depending on the relative position of the Earth and Mars. The possibility of launching to Mars, when the travel time is the shortest, appears approximately every two years. Given that travel time is between six and nine months, such a mission was to begin in April 2018 in order to reach Mars before 2020.

Main problems

One of the obstacles on the way to the moon in fiveyears is financing. Space missions are not cheap. Cassini’s beautiful mission, an unmanned spacecraft on Saturn, cost about $ 3.26 billion. The current NASA budget estimate for 2019 is $ 19.9 billion and should include both new and current missions, research centers, staff, student internships and scholarships, research and development.

Although all this is big money, the amountNASA funds as a percentage of GDP are plummeting. In 1966, NASA received 4.4% of national spending - this year the budget is less than 0.1%. If the current US administration is really serious about fulfilling its obligations to the president, it will have to increase NASA funding.

But even with a smaller budget, why is the United States notcan you curb manned missions? Every president wants to leave his mark on the moon and just in space. Space flights require long planning. The larger the program, the higher the likelihood that it will not “reach out” to the end.

George W. Bush, for example, canceled the programspace shuttles, and Barack Obama canceled the Constellation program, which aimed to bring people back to the moon by 2020. Created under Bush, this program had a more achievable 16-year term.

Technical difficulty in the case of mannedThe mission for five years is that currently there is not a single launch vehicle that is powerful enough to do this job. NASA is currently working on a Space Launch System (SLS), a relic of the Constellation program, but this rocket has not even flown yet. Even if you do not consider the test flight, the ability to deliver astronauts to the moon will not appear soon.

Even the recently launched commercial Falcon Heavycannot complete this mission in one run. It would take at least two launches of different parts of the spacecraft, which would then have to dock in orbit. This will complicate and delay the mission.

Why send people?

One of the biggest questions: why send people at all? Robotic missions have always been preferable. As technology develops, we have the opportunity to engage in science with the help of increasingly compact and sophisticated robots.

This is important if you consider that the cost of runningmaterial in low Earth orbit is about $ 20,000 per kilogram. Sending a person and everything he needs is much more expensive than sending a camera. But that may change, thanks to the development of commercial and reusable rockets. SpaceX claims that the launch cost of Falcon 9 is only $ 6,000 per kilogram.

The current American plan for the exploration of the moonis to send astronauts to the southern polar region of the moon and create a springboard for long-term human presence on the moon. At the south pole there are craters rich in water ice, which is not only necessary for human life, but also can be used to produce fuel and oxygen for breathing. The ability to electrolyze water, dividing it into hydrogen and oxygen, appeared as early as the 1800s, and the required power can be easily supplied through solar panels.

Post preparation could allow NASA to runAmerican astronauts to Mars and beyond. Other benefits include the ability to choose what to study and explore delicate geological notes in place. We could also use the moon to create an astronomical observatory that could get an excellent view of the universe, given the thin atmosphere.

Militarization of space

The reasons for the sudden race to the moon are undoubtedlycaused by the possibility of the US space race with China. The capabilities of the National Space Agency of China have increased significantly: from their first manned orbital flight in 2003 to their first space station in 2011.

They also managed to land the landing gear androver on the moon in 2013 and again in 2018, and the devices sent high-quality images of the far side of the moon. The sample return mission is scheduled for the end of this year - all this in 15 years.

The return of Americans to the moon will certainly create exciting opportunities for scientific research and space exploration. However, whether it will be possible in the near future, no one knows.

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