Let us start from the beginning of this well known “Space Race”. This so called, analogy to arms race, was an informal competition between United States and Soviet Union to see who could outrun each other in advancements in space first. This race was set to explore outer space with artificial satellites and manned lunar missions. The leader in this race was Soviet Union launching Sputnik-I in 1957. Space technology became a major part in this conflict as it involved both potential military applications and the morale-boosting social benefits. During Cold War both nations gained great pride and superior technology and this competition forced Americans to show some superiority by planning to send “man to moon” and back to earth. This was achieved in 1969 under presidential term of J. F. Kennedy.
This was called Apollo 11, the fifth manned mission in the Apollo series to explore space, and became the first manned mission to set its foot on the Moon. After this mission, that had a big role in causing a chain reaction in spreading the presence of human kind throughout universe, there were several missions exploring space by different countries. But the end of lunar missions came in December 7, 1972, with the launch of Apollo 17 which involved three astronauts.
This mission used Lunar Rovers and surface excursions and many spacewalks. They returned from moon on December 19, 1972 through splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. This was the last mission to moon and Eugene Cernan is, to date, the last man ever to have walked on the Moon. While those involved in those space missions look back on their achievements that are embedded in both time and history, others are looking at the future for space exploration.
There were several different missions to other planets in the years following this lunar mission but man never returned to moon. The question that still arises is why? The answer as told by NASA and other space research organizations is that the expenditure on such missions was too high to afford, the space shuttle requires high maintenance and manned missions needed careful safety measures to keep the astronauts in space and the moon for a long time. Building on the best of Apollo and space shuttle technology, NASA’s 21st century space exploring system will be durable, affordable, versatile and safe but take some time to make.
This payload in the picture is the latest marvel of NASA which with the space shuttle can carry up to 6 crew members or astronauts into space or moon. NASA is also working very hard to make the new spacecraft operational by 2011, decreasing any gap in human space flight. The proposal called for the CEV [crew exploration vehicle] is to be ready by 2014, which will reflect the vision of returning to moon. There are other space research organizations of different countries trying to achieve the same and started on their specific lunar projects by end of 20th century for e.g. China is planning to send manned shuttle to moon by 2020. United States space research organization NASA is also currently designing ORION spacecraft which can carry 4-6 astronauts, launched by the ARES I, the launch vehicle. Both these space exploring components plan to send humans to moon again by end of year 2020. This project has been awarded to Lockheed Martin [LM] to develop, design, build and test the module. The first crewed Orion flight is to be tested in 2015.