It was 50 years ago that astronaut Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon and said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”
The last time a human being landed on the moon was in 1972. And while there has been a hiatus on lunar exploration, the experts at NASA have long wanted to return. Now, they’ll get that chance, with an expedition planned for 2024. And the Johnson Space Center in Houston will play a key role.
Why Return to the Moon?
NASA announced its plan to return to the moon with these words:
President Donald Trump has asked NASA to accelerate our plans to return to the Moon and to land humans on the surface again by 2024. We will go with innovative new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the surface than was ever thought possible. This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. And then we will use what we learn on the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.
On this trip to the moon, the lunar surface is both a destination and a base for further space exploration. Plans to travel to Mars have long been talked about. Using the moon as a way station may help NASA astronauts figure out some of the special challenges associated with a long stay in space.
How Will the Johnson Space Center Help?
The Johnson Space Center was the home to mission control during the Apollo missions of the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is also home to:
- NASA’s astronaut program
- The International Space Station mission operations
- The Onion Program
As NASA prepares for its return to the moon, the Johnson Space Center will:
- Train the astronauts who will be participating in this special mission
- Prepare new technology to help NASA achieve its goals on the moon
When the mission gets underway in 2024, the Johnson Space Center’s mission control center will once again be the hub of activity and serve as a link connecting Earth to a new generation of lunar visitors.
The Johnson Space Center will be working closely with technology companies in central California through the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. Over the next five years, they’ll work together to develop the technology necessary to allow astronauts to stay on the moon.
One key piece of technology is the Nova-C lunar lander, which is currently under construction at the Houston Spaceport and is being built by Bay Area company Intuitive Machines. They plan to launch the Nova-C to the moon on July 16, 2021 to collect crucial data for the NASA mission.
Assuming the Nova-C mission is successful, the Houston Spaceport and the Johnson Space Center will then launch annual payload missions to the moon for the next ten years.
While people and companies from all over the United States will play a part in the next mission to the moon, the hub of all activity is the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The Center’s unique history and intense preparation for the mission are sure to make it a success.