Why haven't people been back to the Moon?

Short answer: It's expensive, difficult and dangerous.

Long answer: The only missions that have ever taken humans to the Moon were part of NASA's Apollo program between 1969 and 1972. It was a short-lived program. As early as 1970 plans were underway to end Apollo and the last Moon landing was in December 1972.

When President Nixon cancelled Apollo and replaced it with the Space Shuttle, he changed NASA forever. He effectively downgraded space exploration from its privileged position in the national budget to just another state-funded program. Of course it could be argued that this was inevitable sooner or later but Nixon certainly did make it happen very quickly.

Perhaps more significantly, Nixon redirected NASA to concentrate on space transportation in low Earth orbit rather than exploration of deep space. Nixon wanted the Space Shuttle program to be a multi-purpose transport and utility vehicle for low Earth orbit, designed to deploy and work with satellites. As such it would be limited to the space immediately around Earth and be unable to get anywhere near the Moon.

With NASA's human spaceflight budget consumed by the Space Shuttle, and later the International Space Station, there was no hope of further Moon missions.

This was the situation until January 2004 when President George W. Bush announced a plan to send human missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars. Unfortunately he did not announce a plan on how to pay for it. The new program, called Constellation, moved forward at a painfully slow pace until it was cancelled by President Obama. Obama shifted the goalposts to Mars, effectively pushing any progress so far into the future that it would be the next generation's mission.

Then in 2017 President Trump announced yet another u-turn for NASA, taking the focus from Mars back to returning to the Moon. Again, there was no mention of how this would be funded.

That's where we stand at the time of writing this article. As you can see it's a hard road for NASA when their objectives keep getting changed. It does look as though the political desire to get back to the Moon may be increasing slowly but it's still a low priority for the United States. Perhaps the biggest motivation will come when other countries or private companies start getting serious about their plans.

Bottom line: There is no political pressure for the government to fund a Moon mission. Americans who support spending tax dollars on space exploration are in the minority and it's not seen as a voting issue anyway. If people aren't asking the government to go back to the Moon, there's no reason for them to do so.

>> Back to the Moon Hoax FAQ

1. President Nixon never once gave any credit to John F. Kennedy, or even mentioned his name in connection with the Apollo program.
2. Logsdon, John. After Apollo: Richard Nixon and the American Space Program. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

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Author: Dave Owen.