We first landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969 with the Apollo 11 mission. The launch of the Saturn V rocket is shown in the first image on the right. The second image shows Buzz Aldrin as he descends ladder from the Lunar Module, also on the Apollo 11 mission. The Apollo 17 mission was the last mission to carry men to the Moon and it returned to Earth on December 19th, 1972. The Command Module is shown just before splashdown in the third image on the right. Click on either image to get a high-resolution version from NASA. Crop and resize them a bit and they make perfect backgrounds!
So the age of exploring the moon lasted just over three and a half years and in the last 33 years no man has set foot on an extraterrestrial world.
I think that’s a shame! We once had the technology to go to the Moon, but now it’s gone. But what’s worse: we have lost over thirty years of potential experience. If the Apollo missions had continued would we then have a base on the Moon now? On Mars? Nobody knows, but I feel that we’re not going to get those things if we keep flying around in near Earth orbit all the time.
I would love to see humans on Mars, our new Frontier. When I see films and documentaries from the space race in the sixties I always envy the people who lived to see the first man on the Moon. I would really like to be able to tell my children or grandchildren that I saw the first man (or woman) on Mars.
I’m also the optimistic (idealistic even?) type of person who thinks that exploring and pushing the limits of what we know and what we can. Spending money on advancing science would be a much better way to improve the conditions for future generations than, say, buying yet more military hardware.
Sure there are lots of problem on our own planet Earth — hunger, wars, diseases, and lots of other problems — but that doesn’t mean that we should constrain ourselves to solving those problems before we can look beyond to other worlds. (Wow, that was almost poetic, wasn’t it? :-)
By the way: all the beautiful images here are of course from NASA, more precisely the Apollo Image Gallery where you’ll find over 3000 original images from the Apollo missions. All images produced by NASA are without copyright — this applies to all material produced by US goverments. Very nice exception I say! (This exception also applies to stuff produced by an agency like the CIA: for example, data from the CIA World Factbook is used by Wikipedia.)