Why Haven't We Been Back to the Moon Since 1972?

Officially, we humans haven’t been on the Moon since December 1972 and NASA’s Apollo 17 mission. For this reason, surprisingly many people believe we never were on the Moon and that it was all a propaganda from the U.S. government, filmed in Hollywood and used to make the world think they did it before Soviets. As an argument to support this theory, it is often asked “why haven't we been back to the Moon since 1972 then?”

Before answering that question, let me tell you why I found it unrealistic that the whole thing was a sham. Considering NASA’s budget in the mid-1960s was between 2% and 4.5% of the federal budget of the USA, whereas it was under 1% for the most time through the rest of the organisation’s history, it was certainly doable to reach the Moon in that time period. It would be harder to keep hundreds of thousands of people who participated in NASA’s missions to actually keep the secret than it would be to land on the Moon. Lunar landings were after all confirmed by Japanese and Chinese governments. Even if all this was somehow fabricated, the most compelling argument is the fact that humans will reach the Moon again. Discovery of faked landings would be catastrophic for NASA’s credibility and that of USA in general.

So, why haven’t we been back to the Moon since 1972? Because there is no need for us to visit the Moon any time soon. Since 1970s, NASA has shifted its focus to other missions and thus their budget accordingly. Sending humans instead of robots to the Moon is still expensive and unnecessary. Forty years ago, it was a matter of national pride. Today, for NASA at least, it is futile. Some time in the future, when our technology is more advanced, we will return to exploit Moon’s natural resources or to practice and prepare for colonisation of other planets. In the meantime, some other countries will certainly visit the Moon to demonstrate their scientific capabilities and achievements.

When that happens, it will be interesting to watch them confirm NASA’s landings or dispute them. There is a realistic scenario where Chinese are the first to reach the Moon and then less realistic scenario where their government decides to discredit the USA by claiming NASA never visited the Moon. They won’t do that though, since in 2010 they claimed to have observed traces of Apollo landings.

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