Harrison Schmitt Exhorts, “America Must Return to the Moon ‘As Soon As Possible’ ”
July 25, 2020 (EIRNS)—Apollo astronaut Harrison Schmitt, who was on the last American mission, Apollo 17, to land on the Moon, wrote in a July 24 Politico article that he “never imagined” that the next crew would come at least 52 years later. “As a nation we cannot continue to have such gaps, if we intend to maintain our global leadership in space exploration, expand our commercial sphere of activities away from Earth orbit, and secure the benefits of the Moon for future generations.”
Human exploration of the Solar System not only brings peoples together and harnesses the tremendous commercial resources of the United States, Schmitt said, insisting “There is no acceptable choice for America’s future but to return to the Moon to stay, and to do so as soon as possible. ... Returning to the Moon will be about establishing a permanent, sustainable human presence” and maintaining global leadership, he said. NASA’s Artemis program
“driving cultural, geopolitical and economic forces of this age.... Artemis ... will also depend on American industry to land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024, but also enable a permanent foundation of sustainable operations, productive science, and commercial activities on the lunar surface and beyond.”
Schmitt praised the partnership of “the national team”—NASA, Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. He called blending established entities like NASA and entrepreneurial space firms “a good prescription for success.” Blue Origin is building the Descending Element, or lander, that will transport the crew to the lunar surface. NASA’s plan is to land near the Moon’s South Pole, where NASA expects to find significant quantities of water- ice, and other resources. Lockheed Martin will provide the Ascent Element that will boost crews from the surface back to a rendezvous and docking point in lunar orbit, and will leverage existing human-rated deep space technology from the Orion spacecraft. Northrop Grumman will provide the Transfer Element that will ferry the entire landing system to a pre-landing lunar orbit. This stage is based on the successful Cygnus cargo transfer system, which has flown 13 resupply missions to the ISS.
NASA’s Human Landing System offers the United States the best chance of returning to the Moon and using its resources to sustain and advance human exploration and civilization in space,” Schmitt said, concluding, “Half a century has been far too long to wait to see Americans again step on the Moon.”