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NASA Just Got Real About Returning To Moon

Americans can get terribly dreamy about the moon and with good reasons too. The flags, tracks, and the footprint we left there in the 1960s and 1970s were signs of what we can accomplish when we just plain decide to complete it. Now, however, the moon is in the headlines again. On Wednesday this month, NASA's current administrator Robert Lightfoot distributed a memo to the teams suggesting the possibility of taking astronauts to the space agency's new heavy-lift space rocket and also a crew vehicle as early as 2018.

A view of Home from Moon, Image Credit: NASA 




The rocket, famous prosaically as the SLS (Space Launch System), has been in slow-walk development process since 2004, as has the Orion spacecraft, in a quite better shape, 21st-century Apollo capsule. According to the recent schedule, the first mission is called EM-1 (for Exploration Mission 1) would surely be an unmanned flight. It’ll be launched in 2018. The space rocket would spend almost three weeks flying to and orbiting Earth’s moon and then return home, signifying the deep-space flying-worthiness of all of the hardware in the spacecraft. EM-2(for Exploration Mission 2), a manned mission, after three to five years later and would repeat the same EM-1's flight profile, the only difference would be that it will have astronauts aboard.

But Lightfoot, the previous director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (NMFC) in Huntsville, Ala., wishes to step on the gas. In his surprise letter, he inscribed that he wants to "assess the feasibility" of adding a new crew to Exploration Mission-1 (EM 1). And then added:
I know the tasks and challenges linked with such a proposition, similar to reviewing the mechanical feasibility, extra resources needed, and obviously, the extra work would involve a different flight date. That said, I also want to hear about the chances it could offer to accelerate the struggle of the first crewed flight and what it would take to achieve that first step of taking humans farther into space.
Lightfoot isn't joking when he speaks of challenges. The go-slow nature of the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion development has not much to do with the high-tech hurdles in a return-to-the-moon mission considerable however they may be, then with the every political and institutional one.

It was something Americans did right and did absolutely well. And it's something we could do again.

This article was originally published in Time.

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