On November 21, 1962, President John F. Kennedy said of the United States Space Program that "going to the moon is the top-priority project," ranking it second only to defense among the most important focal points of U.S. Government policy. By July 21, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the lunar surface, followed immediately by fellow Apollo 11 crew member Buzz Aldrin.
With the haste the U.S. once showed for space exploration, it was assumed by the early seventies that man would similarly set foot on Mars within the next two decades; this ended up not being the case, however, and as the space race began to dissolve by 1975, it left many wondering why future plans for stretching the boundaries of human accessibility had dwindled.
There has been some talk in recent years of Americans returning to the lunar surface, and according to a recent Associated Press report, U.S. President Barack Obama has indeed expressed new plans for NASA and the Space Program. Unfortunately, these don't involve going back to the Moon. Instead, renewed focus on studies and innovation with the International Space Station will become a primary focus. Though budgetary issues are among the primary reasons cited for this decision, it has left many wondering what this will mean for the future of space travel, and even who will be the next among the nations of the world to enter worlds outside our own.
The following video, featuring U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, outlines the recent developments:
In lieu of the U.S. engaging in further interplanetary operations for the time being, countries like China appear to be moving forward with plans to launch a series of spacecraft capable of long term unattended automated functions, with the ultimate hope of building another space station. Will landing on the Moon be the next objective for the East?
In spite of the obvious budgetary concerns associated with sending men back to Earth's sole natural satellite, there are a host of conspiracy theories associated with the moon also, among them those which claim evidence exists of foreign "structures" on the Moon. In one such instance, evidence of such was brought to the attention of Moon researchers in May of 2004 by researcher Joseph Skipper, who by scanning images of the lunar surface using the Clementine Lunar Map (version 1.5) discovered a strange object resting at the top of a large crater (to view the object, as well as the results of a forensic photo-analysis, click here). The Clementine imaging software, now available in version 2.0, shows no such "object" at the site referenced by Skipper and others, lending to the notion that it either a) moved, b) was airbrushed from the image or c) never existed to begin with. Although the 1.5-era Clementine images certainly appeared to show something, it remains in question whether any of the objects discovered over the years represent actual manufactured anomalies, or if they are optical illusions created by light and shadow, or perhaps even just digital and photographic artifacts.
If you care to dig around and see what you might be able to spot, feel free to have a look at the Clementine Software yourself, or you could zero-in on the landing sites of the Apollo astronauts on the Moon's Equatorial Region using the handy Google Moon software. Finally, for a colorful analysis of the Moon's many anomalies, you might enjoy the film Moon Rising by Jose Escamilla, available in several parts on YouTube.