Janet Ivey, Chris Carberry: Apollo XI Anniversary — THIS is the even bolder step that must come now

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On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the lunar surface aboard the Lunar Module “Eagle” as fellow crewmember Michael Collins orbited solo around the Moon in the Command Module “Columbia.” As the “Eagle” successfully landed on the surface of the Moon, Neil Armstrong famously declared, “Houston. Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed!”

Fifty years have passed since this milestone in human history. The Apollo lunar landings are among the greatest human and technological achievements of the modern era. Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. once wrote, “The 20th Century will be remembered, when all else is forgotten, as the century when man burst his terrestrial bonds and began the exploration of space.”

The Apollo Program reminds us what the U.S. (and humanity as a whole) can achieve when there is a clear goal and the proper motivation to achieve that goal on a daunting deadline. Humans have not walked on the surface of the Moon since December 1972. Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan was the last human on the Moon and he left a plaque which read, “Here man completed his first exploration of the Moon December 1972 A.D. May the spirit of peace in which we came be reflected in the lives of all mankind.”

APOLLO 11 FLIGHT DIRECTOR REMEMBERS HISTORIC MISSION TO THE MOON

During the Apollo Program, there was even talk of sending humans to Mars as early as the 1980s, which seemed like a realistic aspiration based on the extraordinary speed in which the U.S. had gone from its first suborbital flight to landing humans on the moon. But, any hopes of moon bases or sending humans to Mars faded as the Apollo architecture was disassembled and the U.S. space program began focusing instead on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station.

Currently, we have a new opportunity that will enable us not only to equal the achievement of Apollo but to surpass it. Let us use this anniversary to assure that the achievements of the Apollo program were not in vain. NASA, industry, and international partners have been developing a wide range of launch, crew, and other capabilities over the past few years. If all goes according to plan, we will soon see humans, both women as well as men, exploring the lunar landscape in the 2020s and utilizing the moon as a training ground for subsequent missions to Mars.

We believe that the best way to honor the giant leap of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo-era astronauts, engineers, scientists, companies, and public servants, who collectively worked successfully to land humans on the moon 50 years ago this week, is to take an even bolder step that will lead to humans on the surface of Mars in the 2030s.

The administration recently set the ambitious goal of returning humans to the moon by the end of 2024. With this accelerated timeline for returning to the moon, however, we must also keep our minds and mission objectives on Mars. Returning to the moon must also include plans to advance our ability to send humans to Mars by the 2030s.

Such a clear commitment would be consistent with the NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2019. In a rare show of bipartisan support, this law was unanimously passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president in 2017 and required that the first human mission to Mars occur by 2033.

The general public is strongly behind this goal as well. A new Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans are in favor of human missions to Mars. This poll also found that support was virtually identical among individuals identifying themselves as Republicans and as Democrats.

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We believe that the best way to honor the giant leap of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo-era astronauts, engineers, scientists, companies, and public servants, who collectively worked successfully to land humans on the moon 50 years ago this week, is to take an even bolder step that will lead to humans on the surface of Mars in the 2030s.

This week we celebrate Apollo 11 and recommit ourselves to the goal of voyaging into deep space, not because it will be easy, but because it will be hard, yet knowing that even the smallest steps we take in exploration always seem to be the beginnings of the most glorious of human achievements. This month we celebrate the past, but we also look to the future as we enter a new era of human space exploration — one that will see humans living and working on the Moon and Mars…and beyond.

Chris Carberry is CEO of Explore Mars, Inc.



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