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A Moon Landing 50 Years in the Making

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The United States just had its first moon landing mission in over 50 years. The wait has been long, and people could not be more excited in the U.S. The spacecraft is called “Odysseus” or “Odie” for short. This is the first time since the Apollo mission in 1972. The U.S. has made attempts before but was unsuccessful. This would be the first time in over 50 years that any spacecraft has landed on the moon from the United States. This ship is also the first time that a commercial company has successfully gone to space. The ship landed on February 22nd, 2024, around 6:24 p.m. EST. Let’s investigate what made this historic moment possible.


The ship called Odysseus was made by “Intuitive Machines” and launched on Thursday, February 15th at 1:05 a.m. EST. The mission was declared successful after some minor technical difficulties between the spaceship and ground control. According to Jackie Wattles and Ashley Strickland for CNN, the ship was to, “focus on demonstrating communication, navigation and precision landing technologies, and gathering scientific data about rocket plume and lunar surface interactions, as well as space weather and lunar surface interactions affecting radio astronomy,” (Wattles and Strickland). In short, the ship is being used to collect data about the surface of the moon and the environment around the moon.


The ship officially confirmed landing around 6:24 p.m. EST on February 22nd, 2024. The confirmation came late due to a lost connection between the spaceship and mission control at “Intuitive Machines.” This marks the first time that a commercial company in the U.S. has sent a mission to space. Michael Sheetz for “CNBC” wrote, “Governments and private companies alike have made more than 50 attempts to land on the moon with mixed success since the first attempts in the 1960s, and the track record has been unstable even in this century. But that’s not deterring the modern race that’s now underway” (Sheetz). The article mentions the fact that despite the multiple failed launches, the race for space exploration is well underway.


Sheetz brings up an interesting fact about this launch. With the success of Odysseus, there is a door open for other commercial companies to get into commercial space exploration. While Elon Musk has attempted space exploration, it was unsuccessful. What used to be a far-off dream, now looks to be possible. Companies like “Space X” and “Virgin Galactic” started getting into space exploration in 2019 and 2020. While both companies have attempted space flight since 2022, they have yet to land on the moon. Virgin Galactic has made multiple trips either to space or around the moon without landing. The first commercial moon landing marks a new age in commercial space travel. The problem is space travel already poses a few problems without the need for commercial travel. Topics like environmental harm and financial cost make commercial space travel difficult in modern times.


While the landmark is exciting, not everyone is in support of commercial space exploration. The “Space General Advisory Council” has many concerns about commercial space travel. One concern seems to be the environmental impact. The “Space General Advisory Council posted an article in 2023 about space travel. The article stated, “The environmental impact of rocket launches in general is difficult to estimate, especially for future rockets which will possibly be used for space tourism. In terms of carbon dioxide for example, rockets burning hydrogen and oxygen (like Blue Origin’s New Shepard) do not directly produce carbon dioxide, though emissions are possibly within the production processes of these fuels” (Space General Advisory Council). The quote finds that the cardon dioxide emissions alone will greatly increase the environmental footprint of a typical person.


“Space General Advisory Council” had more environmental concerns than carbon emissions. The company is also worried that “Kerosene-based rockets do not produce ‘clean’ burns, which leads to an emission of black soot into the atmosphere. Even clean, hydrogen-based rockets emit nitrogen and water vapor, the result is very bright, long-lasting clouds in the upper atmosphere [s]. These emissions could create a cooling or a heating effect, depending on the conditions. Scientists are also worried about the effects of rocket launches on the ozone layer since every launch creates a small, short-lived hole [s]” (Space General Advisory Council). It’s safe to say that the company is worried about the serious environmental impact that commercial space travel will have.


What might be another concern is the financial cost of space travel. Will Gendron wrote an article for “Business Insider” on the cost of space travel. The article said, “… a seat on a Virgin Galactic rocket costs $450,000, though some, like Goodwin, bought tickets over a decade ago for $250,000” (Gendron). With the perceived cost of around $200,000 to $400,000 it is almost impossible for most people to enjoy space travel anytime soon. The high financial cost is made up by a few factors. First, the experience is one-of-a-kind. Second, the cost of fuel for the spaceship is more expensive due to the amount of fuel that is needed. Regardless, the cost of space travel is out of reach for most of the general population.


Not everything about commercial space travel is bad. There are a few exciting facts about commercial space travel. NASA published an article about commercial space travel. The article quoted the director of commercial space flight at NASA, Phil McCallister. McCallister stated, “Commercial space exploration offers opportunities to continue its science and research for the benefit of all humanity. It gives the industry a chance to develop business opportunities, like in space manufacturing, medical research, technology development, tourism, entertainment, and more” (NASA). NASA is no stranger to assisting commercial companies with space travel. The goal for NASA is for constant progress in space travel and exploration.


In conclusion, the launch of the first commercial space flight to touch the moon is exciting. What used to seem like a pipe dream for companies will now seem more possible than ever. While space travel does not come without concerns, it seems more possible to figure out how to responsibly travel in space. With the help of NASA to help these companies make space dreams happen while making progress, the sky is the limit. Hopefully, with time, space exploration can become safer for travellers and the environment. It will be exciting to see how far space tourism will go if it doesn’t decide to be careless with the environment. 

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