Truth is, we have done nothing to equal (much less top) the accomplishments of Apollo. And even worse, we haven’t tried. We did something truly great, but then walked away from it. We had lightning in a bottle — and we opened the lid.
Our country has been pulling the rug out from under NASA ever since Apollo. Really, the agency is running on fumes from rocket fuel that was purchased (on a credit card no doubt) in 1961.
Why did we allow it to slip through our fingers? Sometimes I get the feeling we are the only nation that just doesn’t get it, because we are either cocky or stupid or distracted — or all of the above.
Was it the lack of money?
Was it the shuttle?
Was it boredom with the Moon and the Expense of Mars?
Was it a change in American culture?
What is your opinion what did we lose? What changed? What do we need to regain? Or do you feel we have been making steady progress for the last 50 years?
Dr. Paul D. Spudis wrote What Apollo was …. and wasn’t
Apollo was not about the Moon, or even about space. It took place in space and ultimately, on the Moon. But Apollo was a battle in the Cold War. John Kennedy did not say, “Go to the Moon and press onwards to the planets.” He challenged America to show the superiority of its economic and political system by landing a man on the Moon and returning him to Earth “before this decade is out.” The key objective was not going to the Moon – it was to beat the Soviets to the Moon. This objective was attained with profound consequences, critical to our Cold War victory to a degree still not fully appreciated.
While DR. Spudis explains why we haven’t had the level of funding and excitement for the space program as there was during the 1960’s and early 1970’s. It does’t explain why NASA has been at near stagnation for thirty years. NASA could have been making slower quieter progress. But NASA hasn’t really been making progress.