Forty-four years ago this month history was made 238,900 miles from the Earth’s surface. Saturday, 20 July 2013, marked the anniversary of the first manned spaceflight to the Moon.
Military and aerospace (mil/aero) professionals and enthusiasts rejoiced—while also lamenting the fact that we haven’t revisited the Moon since 1972. As mil/aero industry pundits have been quick to point out this month, the Moon is getting lonely.
During NASA’s Apollo 11 mission, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin flew to the Moon, landed on the lunar surface, took a scenic drive, posted a flag, and returned to Earth—and they did it all with the computing power of a modern day basic calculator. Outstanding, if not unimaginable.
The Apollo 11 mission is reported to have cost $355 million (U.S.) in 1969; that figure equates to roughly $2 billion today. At first blush, it certainly seems as if it is a tough pill to swallow, especially given NASA’s 2013 budget of $17 billion. Yet, NASA’s 1969 budget totaled $4 billion; that said, the Apollo 11 mission represented approximately nine percent (9%) of the entire NASA budget. A $2 billion Moon mission today, taking into account NASA’s $17 billion annual budget, equates to roughly twelve percent (12%) of the total.
This notable aerospace anniversary begs the question: Why haven’t we been back? Pundits, this mil/aero geek included, speculate that perhaps: there hasn’t been a reason to return, or that the limiting factors include today’s challenging economic climate and budgetary constraints. What do you think?