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50 years since the first moon landing, Astronaut laments '50 years of non-progress'

Image released by NASA shows wrinkle ridges in a region of the Moon called Mare Frigoris. Photograph:( AFP )

WION Web Team New Delhi Jul 16, 2019, 08.10 PM (IST)

July 20, 2019 marks 50 years to the historic first moon landing by Apollo 11's module-the Eagle.

The spaceflight Apollo 11 lifted off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969, rocketing astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins into space. Four days later, on July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin landed the Eagle on the moon and stepped onto the lunar surface.

The historic move was live telecasted on TV and was watched by an estimated 650 million viewers.

The moment was declared as "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" by Armstrong, NASA stated.

On their return to Earth, the three astronauts were welcomed as heroes.

Currently, the mission's only surviving members are Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins as their commander and the first man on the Moon, Neil Armstrong, passed away in 2012.

While speaking at the Apollo XI 50th Anniversary, Aldrin hit out at the lack of progress in space travel.

He said, "50 years ago, the Saturn V took the command module, the lunar module, the three of us to the moon. We landed, explored, got back up again, rendezvous-ed, came back. That's 50 years of non progress. I think we all ought to be a little ashamed that we can't do better than that."

Uncertain future

Since 1972, the year of the final Apollo mission, no other country including the US has been able to manage a return to the moon.

President George Bush promised to do so in 1989, as did his son president George W Bush in 2004, while pledging to also march forward to Mars.

But they both ran up against a Congress that wasn't inclined to fund the adventures, with public opinion markedly changed since the height of the Cold War.

For his part, President Donald Trump relaunched the race to re-conquer the Moon and Mars after taking office in 2017. But the immediate effect has been to create turbulence within the space agency.

Last week, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine fired the head of the human space exploration directorate Bill Gerstenmaier, likely over disagreements over the 2024 ultimatum set by Trump to return an American to the Moon.

Five years appears unlikely given that neither the rocket, capsule or lander are yet ready or even finalised.

(With inputs from Reuters)