A former janitor. A satellite graduate telling the story of NASA is also their story. Teacher. A restaurant owner. With her eyes we see how what happened in space in July 1969 changed life in an iconic part of Florida.
Wochit and Britt Kennerly

Bob Richards recalls how The gray, ghostly figures flitted across his family's black-and-white television screen almost half a century ago: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first people to go on

Enthusiastic about the success of Apollo 11, July 20, 1969 landed 49 years ago, and of the future, portrayed in the pop culture of "Star Trek" and "2001: A Space Odyssey," Richards was sure these routine flights to the Moon and the Space stations were inevitable within a few decades.

It never happened: just a few years after their epic victory in the Space Race over Russia, the United States annulled its large-scale lunar program.

But Richards, the CEO of Moon Express, Cape Canaveral and a self-proclaimed "orphan of Apollo," is now convinced that Americans will return to the lunar surface within a decade – this time to stay.

More: "It's part of the fabric of who I am": Moon Shot changed the local landscape, lives

More: Start Plan: Upcoming Rocket Attacks and Landings in Florida [19659008] "It's another paradigm to introduce economics into exploration and science," said Richards, whose firm is trying to lower the cost of robotic lunar missions. "It must be part of a growing, continuous expansion of the human economic and social sphere to the moon, then to Mars and finally to the stars."

Under the new leadership of the Trump administration, NASA plans to partner with companies such as Moon Express to fly next year's small, robotic lander carrying scientific instruments to the moon.


SpaceX delivered a Falcon 9 rocket and a Dragon spaceship with supplies for the International Space Station early Friday. June 29, 2018.
Florida Today

It's a modest start to public-private partnerships designed to help companies develop ever-higher-performing countries faster and more cheaply than NASA. A first medium-sized lander could fly a demonstration mission in 2022 and help shape the design of a larger human-class lander.

A similar approach has successfully served the International Space Station delivered since the expiry of Space Shuttle 7

SpaceX and Northrop Grumman missiles and spacecraft are now shipping cargo into the Earth's near-Earth orbit research complex. SpaceX and Boeing hope to fly astronauts there within a year.

With the help of NASA, SpaceX's Falcon 9 has become the country's most frequently flown rocket and has regained the US launch market by winning a commercial satellite mission

"What has happened to commercial launches becomes the commercial lunar industry imminent, "Richards said. "I think there are very strong analogies between the two."

Moon Express hopes to fly to the moon more than once a year for government, commercial, or university customers. Other small lander companies that have worked with NASA are Astrobotic and Masts Space Systems.

NASA's proposed partnerships also have the potential to capitalize on the interests of billionaires who believe in a sustainable lunar program. One is founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, who was also heavily influenced by seeing Apollo 11 as a boy.


Sources within Blue Origin, founded by Amazon Jeff Bezos, have leaked the possible price of the company's passenger space flights. Tony Spitz has the details.

Blue Origin, which supports Bezos worth a billion dollars a year, develops rockets to carry people, and has proposed a heavy-cargo "Blue Moon" delivery service that could build and support a lunar outpost

"I think we should build a permanent human settlement on one of the poles of the moon," Bezos said last year. "It's time to go back to the moon, but stay this time."

NASA's embrace of commercial lunar partners follows President Trump's December 1 issue of the Space Policy Guideline 1, which reintroduced the Moon as the spacecraft's next low-level space destination for astronauts

"It's a first step for American astronauts Moonlighting for the first time since 1972, to explore and use it for the long term, "said Trump in a ceremony that revealed politics. "Not only will we plant our flag and leave our footprints this time, but we will create a foundation for a later mission to Mars and maybe one day for many worlds beyond."

The Obama administration had canceled a previous lunar program Constellation, which was hatched after the disaster of space shuttle Columbia in 2003. An independent review found the program too far behind schedule and over budget.

Obama put Mars as the agency's focus on human exploration and a mission in the 2030s. and it remains the passion of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk .


According to plans in a recent draft environmental review by the Kennedy Space Center, SpaceX will eventually make a significant expansion of its facilities there soon.

NASA began developing the Space Launch System, which will be more powerful than the Saturn V rocket of the Apollo program, and the Orion capsule for space missions.

Place a small Space Station, or "Gateway," in a lunar orbit that Orion astronauts might visit in the mid-1920s but with no ability to reach the surface unless commercial or international partners deliver a lander.

19659008] Trump's direction The revival of a National Space Council was "important in the sense that it helped rebuild a lost direction," said Paul Spudis, a lunar scientist. "What's needed now is to sit down and work out a detailed plan, an architecture you can bring back."

Spudis advocates an additional return that does not resemble the missions carried out by Apollo crews for a few days.

This return to the moon should be different, "he said." We should focus on placing enduring assets and infrastructure in the polar regions of the Moon and building a lasting presence. Therefore, the emphasis should be on exploration of resources, transportation of cislunars and colonization. "

Why are we going back to the moon?


There are many public places in Brevard County where you have an excellent view of a rocket launch from Canaveral Air Force Station.

In the last 20 years, robotic probes have confirmed that the moon harbors water ice in permanently shaded craters on the poles.

More: Blue Moon, Supermoon, Total Lunar Eclipse in one

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More: Twin Launch Towers stagger in Cape Canaveral's Historic Complex 17

This is a resource that can provide astronauts with air and drinking water, without anything from Earth to start. It could be used to store energy and generate rocket fuel by breaking the water into hydrogen and oxygen. A better understanding of the location of the ice – which pole is the better target – and concentration is the key to finding out where people should gain a permanent foothold.

With fuel depots and reusable spacecraft, missions could regularly fly to and from the Moon a wide variety of orbits, compared to the single-purpose missions performed under Apollo.

And the technologies needed to harvest resources could be perfected closer to home days away from Earth than the eight-month journey to Mars

The vision now exists on paper, but budgets, Plans and schedules for NASA remain vague. The budget outlook assumes that NASA will cut spending on the ISS as early as 2025, a plan that has proved unpopular in Congress.

NASA has been fighting for decades on a budget that is only a fraction of its peak, high-grade Apollo-level exploration targets – less than half of 1 percent of federal spending, compared to more than 4 percent in the mid-1960s.


space space enthusiasts! Do not miss your chance to reach the edge of space. Mark your calendars now (and start saving money).

"A big part of our problem is that there are unrealistic expectations, both in terms of what can be done and how much it will cost to actually achieve it," said Dan Dumbacher, executive director by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, which previously had a leading role in NASA's underfunded Constellation program.

The lack of such a clear drive as Apollo – to defeat the Russians – could continue to be a challenge. [19659008] "This return to the moon is for practical purposes, scientific, economic and national security objectives," Spudis said. "It's a lot harder to justify, so it's easy to get distracted and get off track, we just have to wait and see how everything develops."

No one knows exactly when people will wake up again land on the moon or what a mix of governmental and commercial systems could make it.

Space historian John Logsdon is skeptical that there is a compelling business case for mining lunar resources, so private companies are driving a return to the moon.

"I still think (because we want to go) because we want to go," he said. "It's still geopolitical."


President Donald Trump speaks on private space projects and SpaceX's recent Falcon Heavy launch on Thursday, March 8, 2018, during a White House Cabinet meeting.
White House

NASA is slowly approaching a first launch of the Kennedy Space Center's SLS rocket in 2020, with an Orion crew possibly flying around the moon in 2023 and incubating private partnerships. The progress may seem slow, but it still provides an impulse to fulfill the wish of the Apollo 17 astronaut Gene Cernan that his bootprints are not the last in the lunar soil.

"We're getting closer to getting people on the moon since 1972," said Logsdon. "There seems to be political support for a return to the moon both in the White House and in Congress, and I think we will be closer to both technically and politically in mid-2018 than we were 46 years ago."

The momentum may well as the nation nears the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 next year, Logsdon said. We will remember that this is something we once did, and it was great to do it. "

Contact Dean at 321-242-3668

or jdean @ floridatoday.

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