Apollo 11 and NASA’s Plans Today for the Moon and Mars

As we look back on one of the signature accomplishments of humanity, NASA’s Apollo 11 Moon landing 50 years ago this Saturday, July 20, our view in hindsight has not dimmed this historic milestone or what it means for our future.

As President Nixon spoke to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the surface of the Moon, he said, “Because of what you have done, the heavens have become a part of man’s world … For one priceless moment in the whole history of man, all the people on this Earth are truly one; one in their pride in what you have done, and one in our prayers that you will return safely to Earth.”

Neil Armstrong’s one small step continues to propel humanity to ever greater heights. As the international leader in space for 60 years, NASA has achieved inspiring feats of exploration, discovery, science, and technology. We have changed the way the world flies, communicates, navigates, predicts weather, produces food and energy, and so much more.

Today, we’re implementing President Trump’s Space Policy Directive-1 to “lead an innovative and sustainable program of exploration with commercial and international partners to enable human expansion across the solar system.”

We have been charged by Vice President Pence on behalf of the President, to send the first woman and the next man to the lunar South Pole by 2024, and to “use all means necessary.” Under our Artemis program, we will go with innovative new technologies and systems to explore more locations across the surface than was ever thought possible. This time, when we go to the Moon, we will stay. And then we will use what we learn on the Moon to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars. This is America’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

This work is unfolding right now with the contributions of every single NASA center, and every single discipline represented in our talented workforce.

We are going to the Moon with commercial and international partners to explore faster and explore more together. We will bring new knowledge and opportunities and inspire the next generation. The Moon will provide a proving ground to test our technologies and resources that will take us to Mars and beyond, including building a sustainable, reusable architecture. And, in going to the Moon, we are laying the foundation that will eventually enable human exploration of Mars.

Our backbone for Artemis is the biggest rocket ever built, the Space Launch System (SLS), the Orion spacecraft and the Gateway lunar command module.

We’re staying on schedule for flying the Artemis-1 mission with our Orion spacecraft on the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket next year, and for sending the first crewed mission, Artemis-2, to the lunar vicinity by 2022.

Our charge for a national exploration campaign will use the experience of the NASA workforce, coupled with the innovation of our commercial and international partners, to create an architecture that is open, sustainable and agile to move forward to the Moon once again and then on to Mars. This unified effort will create and inspire the “Artemis generation,” and change the course of history as we realize the next great scientific, economic and technical achievements in space.

Our work is one endeavor with three unique destinations: low-Earth orbit, the Moon, and Mars. And we are building on the legacy of the pioneers at NASA – the brave women and men across the planet who helped us land 12 human beings on the lunar surface and bring them home safely. We are building on the success of commercial space around our planet and the vibrant opportunities is generates, even as we launch humanity once again to the lunar surface to do more science, explore more places, foster innovation, and inspire and engage partners around the world in the next chapter of our history.

As Apollo 11 made preparations for return, Buzz Aldrin said, “This has been far more than three men on a voyage to the Moon. More, still, than the efforts of a government and industry team. More, even, than the efforts of one nation. We feel that this stands as a symbol of the insatiable curiosity of all mankind to explore the unknown.”

Neil Armstrong in the crew’s final television transmission from space, said, “The responsibility for this flight lies first with history and with the giants of science who have preceded this effort. Next with the American people, who have through their will, indicated their desire. Next, to four administrations, and their Congresses, for implementing that will. And then, to the agency and industry teams that built our spacecraft, the Saturn, the Columbia, the Eagle, and the little EMU; the spacesuit and backpack that was our small spacecraft out on the lunar surface.” He thanked all the Americans who put “their hearts and all their abilities into those craft.”

Going forward, we again require the deep and broad support of every American, lawmakers, our innovative and growing aerospace base, and the many passionate professionals who will stake their careers and the future of our species on what we do next in space.

Apollo 11 lifted us all up, as space continues to do on countless fronts that improve our daily lives, even as we look with awe beyond the bounds of our planet.

Starting with the Artemis program and continuing on to Mars, we’re going to do more of the civilization changing human space exploration begun with Apollo 11, and we look forward to the good will and ideas, and the “hearts and abilities,” of people everywhere to chart this brave course.