In the early 1960’s nobody thought the exploration into space was realistic; they simply thought it was “out of this world.” As past becomes present, and present becomes future, technology advances and imagination turns into reality. The impossibility of travel outside of the Earth’s atmosphere was quickly becoming achievable. The preparation to send humans to the Moon was soon going to be put into action, and people everywhere were amazed. This single mission could lead to countless, unimaginable explorations into space. The Apollo 11 mission was the beginning of any future space travel beyond Earth.
Apollo 11 was a plan set forth by President John F. Kennedy. In 1961 the President gave a speech that would put all plans for Apollo 11 in action. He wanted the U.S. to work quickly and efficiently to send people to the Moon and back. Little did Kennedy, and the rest of the United States, know that this goal would come about sooner than expected. The plan only took eight years, and people were anxious to see Apollo 11 blast off into space. Not all people had faith that the three brave astronauts (Neil Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin, and Michael Collins) would return safely back to Earth. One man, who remains unknown said, “Fate has ordained that the men who will go to the Moon to explore in peace will stay on the Moon to rest in peace”. This negative behavior didn’t stop the excitement of people on July 6th, 1969, launching day. People gathered in homes, schools, businesses, restaurants, shops, sidewalks, parks, and elsewhere to watch the unbelievable event occur. “3, 2, 1…Take off!” exclaimed thousands of Americans as Apollo 11 blasted off out of sight. As Apollo 11 came near to its destination it began to orbit the Moon. Armstrong and Aldrin took the Lunar Module to the Moon, and left Collins in Orbit. As Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the Moon’s surface they announced “the Eagle has landed, the Eagle has landed,” for the Lunar Model was named Eagle. Neil Armstrong became the first man to be on the Moon when he took his first steps out of the Lunar Model. “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” proclaimed Armstrong during this defining moment. During the Apollo 11 mission the crew discovered many important things. They found out that the Moon had no atmosphere, sound waves can only be heard when traveling through the medium of air, the lunar sky is always black because diffraction of light requires an atmosphere, and that the Moon’s gravity is approximately 1/6 of the Earth’s. The crew also discovered that the monumental footprints they left on the Moon would remain there for millions of years, for there is no wind to blow them away. Armstrong and Aldrin concluded the surface exploration in about two and a half hours. They took forty-seven pounds of lunar surface material back to Earth for analysis. Apollo 11 landed back on Earth, in the Pacific Ocean, on July 24th, 1969. This single mission may have been over, but it was just the beginning of travel outside of our home planet.
Before NASA sends anymore astronauts to the Moon, or farther, they want to find out more information about the Moon’s surface and space, using current missions. One current mission to the Moon is ARTEMIS, which stands for Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence, and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun. This mission is made up of two probes; P1 and P2. ARTEMIS was created to find more information about the Earth-Moon Legrange points, solar wind, the Moon’s plasma wake, and how the Moon’s own weak magnetism and the Earth’s magnetotail interact with solar wind. NASA has also sent the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) to the Moon. This is used to make high-resolution maps of the Moon’s surface and look for potential sources of water-ice that could exist in the bottom of polar craters. The LRO has found super cold temperatures in these shadowed craters, mainly in the Moon’s south-polar region. These temperatures (-397 degrees Fahrenheit) are among the coldest surface temperatures discovered in the Milky Way. This orbiter has also found evidence of faults that indicate that the Moon may be shrinking. NASA is also creating a new spaceship that is being designed to carry four astronauts to and from the Moon, support up to six crew members on future missions to Mars, and deliver crew and supplies to the International Space Station. The new spaceship is being shaped like an Apollo capsule, but will be three times larger. It will also be more technologically advanced by having the ability to be piloted remotely, and will also be more efficient, because it can be used up to ten times. NASA is planning on returning humans to the Moon, in this new spaceship, by 2018. This trip will cost approximately 104 billion dollars, and will allow astronauts to stay on the Moon for up to seven days. NASA is hoping this newly advanced technology will also someday get humans to and from Mars.
Before the end of the next decade, NASA astronauts are planning on again exploring the Moon’s surface. With new technology, NASA is hoping the astronauts will stay on the Moon for long periods of time, build outposts, and eventually make it possible for journey to Mars. The LADEE, a new orbiter that is being designed, will eventually get sent to the Moon to study the Moon’s thin exosphere and the lunar dust environment. The orbiter will determine the density, composition, and variability of the Moon’s very thin atmosphere. This information will help scientists understand other planets with exospheres or thin atmospheres, such as Mars. Robert Zubrin, the president of Pioneer Astronauts and The Mars Society, said “we are much closer to sending people to Mars than we were sending people to the Moon in 1961”. This hopeful and positive attitude may be rather convincing, but the travel to Mars has many risks and challenges. In modern rockets, the travel to Mars would take roughly six months. The fuel needed for this long journey would be so large that it would take up a huge volume of the spaceship. Also, Mars orbits the Sun at a different pace than the Earth. The careful measure and alignment of these two planets is crucial to launch a spaceship to Mars. However, NASA has ideas to solve some of these conflicts. In the future, NASA will try to develop plasma engines for spaceships. These engines operate using super-heated gas as fuel, which will ensure a safer and faster trip to Mars. Also, plans to launch a new robotic science rover on Mars in 2020 have been made by NASA. This will solve many questions regarding potential life on Mars and may alter future plans to travel to the Red Planet.
The future of any human exploration beyond Earth, such as Mars, was molded by Apollo 11. NASA, and other space corporations, are constantly working to create newer and more advanced technology. The technology used to get humans to the Moon may one day be used to get us to other unimaginable places. If the thought of man on Moon was considered to be unrealistic, there could be many more explorations and discoveries beyond Earth that are currently only in our imaginations.
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