Humans haven’t been to the moon in over 50 years. Why are we going back now?

The last time humans visited the moon was in 1972.

Humans haven’t been to the moon in over 50 years. Why are we going back now?
Source: NASA

The last time humans visited the moon was in 1972 when NASA’s Apollo 17 mission sent astronauts to walk on its surface for the last time. In total, 12 people have landed on the moon, all part of NASA missions. But why haven’t we been back in the last 50 years?

In 2018, Former NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters: "It was the political risks that prevented it from happening. The program took too long, and it costs too much money." While the exact cost of the Apollo 17 mission is estimated differently by different historical resources, it probably cost at least US$20 billion in 1973 (that's worth over US$116 billion today).

Back in the mid-60s, NASA spending took up about 4% of the federal budget; today, it takes up about 0.5%. Congress lowered NASA's budget when the Space Race competition had cooled down and the Vietnam War was amping up.

But now, another moon mission is in the works with Artemis II, which is set to launch in November 2024. NASA is collaborating with Canada and the European Space Agency to make this one possible. Compared to previous moon missions, this one is a lot less expensive. In 2019, Bridenstine said that the Project Artemis moon landings would cost NASA between US$20 billion and US$30 billion in today's dollars.

But, Artemis II is an orbit mission, and none of the four astronauts (one who is repping Canada) will be walking on the lunar surface. This is because NASA is using the mission to test a few new technologies, systems and procedures, just like it did with the unmanned Artemis I orbit mission from last November. If NASA wants to send more people to the moon's surface, then it has to make sure that the plans will actually work out by testing everything beforehand.

This mission is also making history with the first woman on a moon mission, as well as the first Black man and the first Canadian. The astronauts are Reid Wiseman, Victor Glover, Christina Koch and Jeremy Hansen.