Americans Return to the Moon after over 50 Years

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The nearside of the Earth’s Moon, photographed by the Galileo spacecraft on its way to the Jupiter system on December 7, 1992.
Source: NASA/JPL/Caltech (NASA photo # PIA00405)

The Odysseus, an unmanned lunar lander, set down on the Moon on Feb. 22, 2024, over 50 years since any American vessel was sent to the Moon.

The landing is almost 55 years after American astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first human to set foot on the Moon on July 20, 1969. Apollo 17, NASA’s last mission to the Moon in December 1972, was the last time humans were on the moon. All efforts since have been unmanned landers.

While the United States is the only country thus far to put humans on the moon, the former Soviet Union was the first country to put a lander on the Moon in 1966 with Luna 9, winning the space race with the United States. The country would send 29 more landers to the Moon through 1976. The only other countries to do so are China (Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2 on Jan. 3, 2019), India (Vikram on Aug. 23, 2023), and Japan (SLIM on Jan. 20, 2024). 

The lunar lander was built and sent to space by a private company–Intuitive Machines–continuing a turn toward private ventures into space. The company added a sculpture to the lander: Jeff Koons’ “Moon Phases.” Per CNN’s Jacqui Palumbo, “The artwork depicts 125 mini-sculptures of the moon contained in a box, measuring about one inch in diameter. “Moon Phases” shows 62 phases of the moon as seen from Earth, 62 phases visible from other viewpoints in space, and one lunar eclipse.”

1. Should the United States continue missions to the Moon? If yes, should those missions be publicly funded (NASA), privately funded, or both? Should those missions be manned? Explain your answers.

2. Should we send things, such as art, that are not crucial to the science of a mission, to space? Why or why not?

3. Should humans colonize space? Why or why not?

Jacqui Palumbo, “Art in Space: Sculpture Hitches a Ride to the Moon on Odysseus Lunar Lander,”, Feb. 24, 2024

The Planetary Society, “Chang’e-4 and Yutu-2, China’s Mission to the Moon’s Farside,” (accessed Mar. 11, 2024)

NASA, “Chang’e 4,” (accessed Mar. 11, 2024)

NASA, “Laser Instrument on NASA’s LRO Successfully ‘Pings’ Indian Moon Lander,”, Jan. 18, 2024

NASA, “Soviet Lunar Missions,” (accessed Mar. 11, 2024)

Matthew Rozsa, “Odysseus Becomes First U.S. Spacecraft to Land on the Moon since the ’70s,”, Feb. 22, 2024

Mari Yamaguchi, “Japan’s Precision Moon Lander Has Hit Its Target, but It Appears to Be Upside-Down,”, Jan. 25, 2024