Billionaires Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos have already funded their own trips into space (per AP News). Elon Musk is planning an intergalactic sojourn, having purchased a ticket on one of Branson’s flights (per The Wall Street Journal), making this small club of wildly rich egomaniacs just the latest in the privatized space industry. Per Bloomberg, it’s a surprisingly booming market, with the company Astra Space, which built an orbital rocket a few years ago, backed by venture capitalists, making its stock market debut; with satellite builder Planet Labs intended to do so as well; and Firefly Aerospace just waiting for clearance to launch its own rocket from a pad in California. It may be just a matter of time before billionaires are capable of sending missions to the moon and perhaps even walking on its surface and planting Space X flags.
It’s been a long time since a crewed mission has landed on the moon. As reported by Britannica, the first took place on July 20, 1969, with the United States’ Apollo 11 mission. Neil Armstrong was the first human being to set foot on the surface of the moon, famously declaring, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Astronaut Buzz Aldrin soon joined him, and the two men planted an American flag on the moon while Michael Collins remained in the Command Module. Four months later, during the Apollo 12 mission, Pete Conrad and Alan Bean spent a whopping 32 hours on the moon’s surface while Richard F. Gordon piloted the Command Module.
Small steps, giant leaps
During the terrifying 1970 Apollo 13 mission, an exploded oxygen tank forced the crew to abort the moon landing, relates NASA, instead orbiting the moon for four days in the Lunar Module in what Britannica called a “makeshift lifeboat,” as the Command Module had to be shut down to conserve energy. In early 1971, Apollo 14 successfully made it to the moon’s surface. where Alan Shepard, who was the first United States astronaut to travel in space in 1961, famously hit a few golf balls. Edgar Mitchell joined him on the surface, while Stuart A. Roosa piloted the Command Module. Months later, Apollo 15 arrived at the moon, and David Scott and James B. Irwin spent three days on the moon’s surface, using the electrically powered lunar rover for the first time, while Alfred Worden orbited the moon in the Command Module.
In 1972, Apollo 16 reached the moon and John W. Young, who had previously orbited the moon during Apollo 10, walked on its surface with Charles M. Duke Jr. while Thomas K. Mattingly, who had been removed from the Apollo 13 mission after contracting measles, manned the Command Module. Apollo 17 was the last crewed mission to the moon. It took place in December of 1972 and included professional geologist Harrison Schmidt, who, along with astronaut Eugene Cernan, collected over 249 pounds of rocks and other materials during their 22 hours on the moon’s surface, while Ron Evans piloted the Command Module.
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