On Dec. 11, 2017, President Donald Trump signed Space Policy Directive 1, instructing NASA to refocus its space program on long-term, manned space exploration. The president explained: “This time we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprint—we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars and perhaps someday to many worlds beyond.”
Most Americans are happy that the U.S is officially back in the space exploration business. According to a Gallup poll conducted in July, 53 percent favor our return, while 46 percent oppose attempting to land an astronaut on Mars. And in a rare bit of bipartisanship, both Democrats and Republicans are equally supportive of the Mars goal. The edict has injected a new enthusiasm and sense of purpose into the extraordinary men and women who make up the NASA team.
We believe the goal is a good one. The United States is at its best when Americans have shared visions and lofty goals. We were thrilled to learn of the Artemis Program, NASA’s new lunar exploration agenda, which includes sending the first woman and the next man to the moon to study and live there, and training for the even loftier goal of a manned mission to Mars within the decade.
Artemis is the goddess of the moon, according to Greek mythology. She also is the twin sister to Apollo, so it is only fitting that this new endeavor bears her name. And like the Apollo mission, to succeed, Artemis will require countless hours of planning, testing, and experimenting to ensure the mission, the astronauts and every piece of equipment is perfect. That work is being done by men and women at NASA field stations and facilities across the nation.
The RTD Opinions team last week toured the NASA facilities at Langley Research Center. The passion and dedication of the men and women who work there is contagious. Now that the Artemis program is a go, the excitement is palpable. With the first manned launch planned within the next five years, time is critical.
While some might claim that space flight is a cost we cannot afford, we beg to differ. The many benefits to all of humanity thanks to space exploration include our cellphones, CAT scans, water purification systems and microwave ovens. Even today studies that continue as part of the space program have benefited soldiers in the battlefield, airline travel, improvements over GPS directional apps and countless others. We’re excited about the future.