"This is a giant step in the way of US leadership in space," - to paraphrase the historical phrase of astronaut Armstrong, announced Donald Trump. The US president revived the NASA Lunar Program, which was closed back in 1972. In the plans of Americans - the basis for "the subsequent flight to Mars and many other worlds," and not only for peaceful purposes. Will the Americans be able to turn a satellite into a military base?
US President Donald Trump ordered the resumption of the Lunar Program, curtailed by his predecessor Barack Obama. "The focus of the US space program" is changing, stressed Trump, signing a document entitled "The First Space Directive." From now on, the US is making "an important step in the return of American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972 for long-term research."
This is a "giant step" in the path of US leadership in space, the US president said. Trump's words, among other things, refer to the historical phrase of the first man on the Moon, American astronaut Neil Armstrong. The commander of the Apollo-11 crew, as you know, said: "This is one small step for a man, but a giant leap for the whole of mankind."
For the decision to resume the Lunar program, a symbolic date was chosen. On Tuesday, the US celebrates the 45 anniversary of the Apollo-17 landing. This expedition 1972 year was the last (at least the last in the XX century) in a series of people traveling to the moon. This time it is expected that the matter will not be limited to one flag and traces of Americans on a single satellite of the Earth. The US plans to create "the basis for the subsequent flight to Mars and, possibly, later in many other worlds," Trump stressed.
Not a peaceful space
In this case, among the "many applications" of space, he noted, first of all, the military area. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence are concentrated primarily on the strategic military presence of the US on the Moon, noted the American journal New Scientist. According to Pence, this will help "to improve our national security, strengthen the capacity and provide protection for the entire people of the United States."
A hot supporter of plans to create a US base on the moon is James Brydenstein, whom Trump nominated as director of NASA. Note that the Republican congressman Brydenstain is related not so much to space science as to the Pentagon (the likely future director of the space agency is a participant in operations in Iraq and Afghanistan).
"Any space program is always considered with an estimate for military use. Similarly, it was during the Apollo program, when several military-applied programs were developed, but fortunately, the academician of the Russian Academy of Astronautics Alexander Zheleznyakov noted in a comment to the newspaper VZGLYAD.
Americans did not fly to the moon (for the last 45 years)
As mentioned above, the program of American manned flights to the moon took a little more than a decade: from 1961 (when the problem of "asymmetric response" was formulated by John Kennedy after the space flight of USSR citizen Yuri Gagarin) and before 1972 - the landing of "Apollo-17". "Moon race" - a competition with the Soviet Union for the right to send its astronauts to Earth's satellite - was completed after the fifth American expedition.
Since then, this topic has firmly established itself in popular culture and spawned a whole series of "conspiracy theories". The first conspiracy "sensation" - a book titled "We never flew to the moon: fraud at the cost of 30 billion" - was published already in 1974. However, the best confirmation of the fact that the Americans were on the Moon is Moscow's reaction. If the Kremlin had any doubts that NASA astronauts really landed on the Moon, the USSR would do everything possible to expose the "false essence of American imperialism," said Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics Yuri Karash. "One of the most indisputable proofs ... is the congratulation that the leadership of the USSR sent to the US leadership," said the pilot-cosmonaut, twice Hero of the Soviet Union Alexei Leonov (who was preparing to fly to the moon as part of the failed Soviet "response" to the Americans).
The subsequent American presidents kept coming back to the lunar question and other space projects. However, often these proposals turned out to be too "cosmic" even for the US budget. One of the last such programs was the "Constellation", launched under George W. Bush, providing for flights to the Moon, the establishment of a permanent base there and the flight to Mars as the nearest priorities. Barack Obama, who replaced Barack Obama at 2010-2011, turned down this program. Say, to spend such money on the actual repetition of the program "Apollo" was unreasonable.
From New York to Mars
As a result, with Obama, the main goal for NASA was the piloted flight to Mars in 2030 with the intermediate development of the asteroid. Now head of the US administration, Trump also publicly supports the idea of developing the Red Planet and even hopes that this will happen during his presidency. However, Trump repeatedly stressed the need for research and development of the entire solar system by the end of the XXI century.
As noted by the expert Alexander Zheleznyakov, Trump focuses on the potential economic benefits of the lunar project. The project also attracts traders who hope for the opportunity to find there any natural or energy resources, Zheleznyakov added. Trump has not in vain said about the opening of additional jobs. After the closure of the Apollo program, almost 300 thousand people lost their jobs, the interlocutor reminded.
While the White House ponders and persuades, the pioneer of space exploration is trying to become a representative of private capital. In February, the head of the US aerospace company SpaceX, the American-Canadian billionaire and inventor Ilon Mask announced his intention to send tourists to the moon. According to him, two tourists (unnamed people who have some relation to Hollywood) have already paid for the flight. The program Mask intended to be carried out with the help of a manned spacecraft Dragon 2 and a launch vehicle Falcon Heavy. However, both devices are still under development.
The capabilities of the United States are, of course, higher than those of any individual - and with the proper political will, the lunar project is technically feasible, experts believe. Academician of the Russian Academy of Astronautics Alexander Zheleznyakov predicts: "If there will not be any further significant fluctuations, then in ten years the Americans will be able to visit the Moon."
"If the Americans do this, then they have all the components: heavy missiles, the acting cosmonaut detachment, the experience of take-offs and landings, the ship Orion is being prepared, and so on. So they have an objective basis for leadership, "the test cosmonaut, the president of the Moscow Space Club, the current member of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics Sergey Zhukov, shared his opinion with the newspaper.
Will Orion take off?
The reusable space shuttle Orion, which was mentioned by Zhukov, was developed by Lockheed Martin from the beginning of the 2000-ies in the framework of the program "Constellation". The ship (whose first test flight was held in 2014) is initially intended for the delivery of people and cargo to the ISS, but the goal is more ambitious: flights to the Moon at 2019-2020. So far, the project has been stalled - the unmanned flight of the Moon was planned for the end of 2018, but due to technical shortcomings (and mainly because of NASA's financial difficulties) was postponed for a year.
In March of this year, Trump signed a law that increased the annual budget of NASA from 15,5 to 19,5 billion dollars. However, only the cost of the first launch of the "Orion" bundle and the superheavy Space Launch System (SLS) exceeds 2 billion. And the program "Constellation" closed for Obama for 6 years cost 15 billion dollars.
In addition, we should not discount the technical issue. Experts point to the dependence of the American side on the supply of Russian rocket engines (which are still used today for flights to the ISS). There is an opinion that only Russia can build an engine for an interplanetary ship.
The second lunar race with four participants
Russia and China also do not intend to abandon further plans for the development of the Moon. Earlier, both countries signed an agreement on joint space exploration in 2018-2022. China became the third power to make a soft landing on the moon, after the USSR and the US - in December 2013, a soft moon landing on the moon was carried out by the Chinese moonwalker "Yuitu" ("The Jade Hare"). The newspaper VZGLYAD emphasized that it is not worth underestimating the Chinese capabilities in space. They are rapidly catching up, but in a number of directions (for example, satellites for quantum information transmission) have already broken out into world leaders.
Japan has already stated that it actively supports the US plans to develop the moon and establish a permanent station there at the end of 2020. This decision was made on Tuesday at a meeting of the strategic headquarters for the exploration of outer space under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In particular, the authorities want the Japanese astronaut to join the expedition to the moon. In addition, the Japanese are ready to offer their technology unmanned transport vehicles and protection against space radiation.
"It is premature to talk about any leadership in the race," believes Alexander Zheleznyakov. While participants in the "unofficial lunar race," including Russia, make only statements, he explained.
Experts believe: it is most likely that the future development of the planets of the solar system is not in competition, but in cooperation. Even based on purely pragmatic considerations. As previously noted by the VZGLYAD newspaper, Trump's ambitious program can be rejected in favor of returning to the Moon as part of an international coalition.
If we talk about flights to the moon, most likely, it will be an international expedition. "This shows the logic of the development of cosmonautics in recent years," Zheleznyakov predicted. "Virtually all countries have already realized that it is much more profitable to implement large-scale space projects, not alone, but in such a conglomerate," Zheleznyakov said. He explained that there is a concentration of intellectual resources and distribution of financial burden between countries. "So I would still hope that there will not be competition, not a race, but fruitful cooperation, where there will not be first and last," the expert concluded.