Back to the moon

Fifty years ago this year – July 20, 1969, to be exact – the world stopped to watch in sheer amazement as Neil Armstrong became the first human to walk on the moon.

For a few fleeting hours, domestic strife regarding the Vietnam War and the other issues of the day did not seem as important. America had accomplished what just a few years prior seemed almost unthinkable.

For whatever reason, American astronauts have not returned to the moon since 1972. Perhaps the nation’s economic struggles of the 1970s, combined with the nuclear arms race of the 1970s and 1980s, reduced the available funding for more human visits to the moon.

The U.S. has continued to explore space, including the moon, through the decades. However, America will not be the first nation to place a probe on the mysterious far or “dark” side of the moon. That credit will go to China.

Thursday, the Associated Press reported that China landed a probe on the far side of the moon. That side has been observed many times from lunar orbit, but never up close.

The China National Space Administration said the touchdown of the Chang’e 4 craft has “opened up a new chapter in human lunar exploration.”

As exciting as this news may be, we are somewhat disappointed the Chinese accomplished this before the U.S.

Our hopes are somewhat buoyed by commitments President Donald Trump made regarding the mission of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 13 months ago.

“The directive I am signing today will refocus America’s space program on human exploration and discovery,” Trump said in December 2017. “It marks a first step in returning American astronauts to the moon for the first time since 1972, for long-term exploration and use. This time, we will not only plant our flag and leave our footprints – we will establish a foundation for an eventual mission to Mars, and perhaps someday, to many worlds beyond.”

Imagine the pride and unity Americans would again experience if this becomes reality. Instead of constantly bickering about cultural differences that really don’t amount to much, we would join in a sense of accomplishment.

We hope to see U.S. astronauts back on the moon as soon as it can realistically happen.