October 23, 2019
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Science & Technology

US sees Moon landing anniversary as stimulus for new space race

By Alvaro Blanco

Miami, Jul 20 (efe-epa).- This Saturday, the 50th anniversary of man setting foot on the Moon for the first time, the United States wants the feat that beat the Soviet Union to serve as an incentive for a new space race aimed at putting astronauts on Mars.

For several days the US has celebrated the achievement 50 years ago of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, the first men to walk on the Moon, in what was a defeat for the Soviets who until then were leading the space race thanks to Sputnik and Yuri Gagarin, the first man to fly in outer space.

In a statement on this 50th anniversary, US President Donald Trump committed to taking the example of that triumph to "launch a new era of exploration" by the US "into the farthest reaches of the cosmos."

To do so, he sees the Artemis mission as flying a man and a woman to the surface of the moon in 2024 as a first step to taking "the next giant leap - sending Americans to Mars" to reestablish the nation's dominance and leadership in space.

Trump noted that the success of Apollo 11 "was a spectacular demonstration of American technical prowess and space leadership" and "served as an enduring example of what can be accomplished, in the face of incredible odds, by American heart, courage, and grit."

That was also the message of Vice President Mike Pence during his visit this Saturday to the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, where the spaceship blasted off that would put Armstrong and Aldrin on the Moon, while the third astronaut on the mission, Michael Collins, waited in the space capsule orbiting the natural satellite.

Accompanied by Aldrin and Rick Armstrong, son of the first man on the Moon, Pence described as heroes the astronauts of the Apollo program, which, he said, will inspire a new space program by the United States, which has increased the NASA budget for that purpose.

"America will return to the Moon within the next five years and the next man and the first woman on the Moon will be American astronauts," Pence said: "We're going back."

And they won't just be there for a few hours but will stay there, plus technology will be developed to allow a new generation of rockets to make the trip in months and not years, as is the situation at present.

Pence mentioned NASA's plans to return to the Moon in 2024, establish a permanent lunar base in 2028 and take the first astronaut to Mars in the 2030s.

Specifically, he said the Artemis 1 mission is going in the right direction and the lunar spaceship Orion is ready to begin preparations to return to the Moon according to that schedule, propelled by the momentum of the current space race.

If half a century ago the urgency was driven by Soviet domination, today there is a new rival: China announced last January that the Chang'e spacecraft landed on the hidden side of the Moon, the first time in history that has been achieved.

But while the new space race steps up the pace, this Saturday is a day of celebration with ceremonies and tributes in a number of cities across the country and on special TV programs.

NASA's own channel is showing the original videos of the first Moon landing and the first steps on its surface by Armstrong and Aldrin, which began at 10:56 pm in the eastern United States (0256 GMT on Sunday).

It was then that Armstrong said the memorable phrase: "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." EFE-EPA abm/cd

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