After four decades, is America over the moon?
The Arizona Republic
The unmanned $504 million Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which launches Wednesday along with another satellite, is designed to take high-resolution photos to find safe future landing sites. Other instruments will examine radiation levels and identify natural resources on the moon, such as ice, for possible use by future human outposts.
But even as the countdown for launch begins, a strenuous debate continues over whether the United States’ moon program will yield findings and technology that justify the more than $100 billion in costs. In May, President Obama’s administration ordered a review of NASA’s current plan to end the space-shuttle program in 2010 and develop spacecraft to send astronauts to the moon.
Some scientists oppose the new moon program, saying NASA should focus instead on research on Mars and other planets.
Supporters argue that manned moon spaceflights are essential if humans ever hope to travel to Mars and beyond. They say the moon is the best testing ground for how astronauts will handle extended stays in space.
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