Today marks the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 17 landing, the last time humans were on the Moon. That was back in 1972, but it looks like we could be back sooner (in space time, not Earth time) than later.
President Donald Trump is directing NASA to get astronauts back on the Moon as part of a broader plan to travel to Mars. Space Policy Directive-1, the order this plan is a part of, was signed on Monday by Trump. It represents a shift in focus from Mars to the Moon, at least for the time being, and a shift from the priorities of the Obama administration.
Trump claimed the move will re-establish America as a leader in space, as well as boost jobs and national security. “This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint," Trump said. "We will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.” Proponents of this approach see the Moon as a potential testing ground for technologies to be used on Mars.
Notably, no details were provided about what exactly will change under the new policy and what long-term plans would be to reach the Moon or Mars. The major issue is funding. NASA once estimated that getting back to the Moon would cost over $100 billion, which could be a deterrent for an administration that seeks to decrease the deficit. If the budget isn't increased, that money would have to come from somewhere, like other programs at NASA.
It's also possible we'll partner with the European Space agency or similar agencies from Russia, Japan, and China, which all have interest in getting back to the Moon. Partnerships with private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin could also be used.
We don't know how or when, but getting back there is now a lot more likely than it was.
h/t The Verge