Only 4 of the 12 moonwalkers are alive today. One of them, Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke, visited Armenia to participate in the STARMUS VI Festival.
In an ARMENPRESS Exclusive, retired astronaut Charles Duke spoke about the mankind’s return to the Moon, the US-Russia cooperation in space and the future of space exploration.
Artemis - NASA’s program to return astronauts to the lunar surface
Charles Duke: I’m optimistic. Getting a vehicle as complicated and as big as Artemis off right on schedule is very demanding task… Little things can cause a scrub of the launch.
The last time there was a disconnect where they feed hydrogen, in the tanks…we had a leak there… You could have an explosion when you lift off. They were very careful with the first launch.
But I’m very optimistic… It looks like the next launch will be in October.
Crossed two fingers, it’s gonna go off in October.
Future of cooperation in space between the US and Russia
Charles Duke: Politics haven’t affected the space programs that much. The crew right up there now is a crew from Russia and the US and some other country. I see that continuing. We’re launching now our astronauts from US-owned SpaceX Dragon I believe it is. Russians keep supplying their crews. They seem to get along pretty well. Politics seems to disappear when we get into space together. And the crews get along very well. I hope that the governments can continue to encourage that. Let’s finish out the program, we’ve got another 10 years maybe with the Space station, then it’s over. We can continue the cooperation, hopefully.
Era of space tourism
Charles Duke: I’m excited about space tourism. I have some friends who have been up there – Laura Shephard, Alan Shepard’s daughter went up on Blue Origin and several others that I’ve known. I tell them all that we’ve watched them on Blue Origin launch. Not this last one, but the one before. There were six people on board. I said; “When you get up there, you’ve got 5 minutes. Look out the window. Don’t worry about zero-gravity, look out the window. It will be the most spectacular view you’ve ever see in your life”.
I say that the future of near space is private – SpaceX, Blue Origin in our country, Boeing’s Dreamliner or Starliner, whatever they call it. NASA’s gonna be using its money to go deep space. Artemis and stuff like that. And I think down the road there’s a desire to go to Mars, but as I said earlier Mars is a big deal and it’s gonna take a lot of money. They are very good at it, I’m excited about the privatization, I call it, of Space. We’ll just see what happens.
Where can Space exploration take humanity in coming decades?
Charles Duke: My hope is that Artemis will be the first steps of an establishment of a science base on the Moon. We have a science base in Antarctica with a lot of nations. And it’s a hostile environment in Antarctica. But we do it, we live there. And we can do the same on the Moon. And just learning how to operate on the Moon, and experiments, and telescopes and just human physiology and all of the things and discoveries, perhaps water, ice on the Moon…There’s just a lot to learn from the Moon about Space.
We’ve got to go to Mars and live on Mars. We need a practice down here because once you leave to Mars on a Mars mission you’re on your own. Everything got to work, you carry it all with you. But on the Moon you’re 72 hours away. You’ve got instant communications. “Hey, Huston”, or whoever you’re talking to, ‘We’ve got a problem here over the system’. And they are right there ready to help you and guide you through the solutions. But on Mars - ‘Houston, we’ve got a problem’, well, hopefully, you’ve got a spare part on board. So the planning on the Mars mission is very, very difficult and important.
Crew selection - do you have a doctor on board? Get sick out there on your way to Mars, you need some help. You can’t get it from Earth. You can get some advice from Earth, but even in Mars “Hey, Huston, we’ve got a problem”. 12 Minutes later they hear you. 12 minutes later you hear them. That’s 30 minutes, a lot can happen in about 30 minutes. Mars is autonomous. And we need to practice and we need to have such confidence in our systems that we can confidently launch and get out the Mars. To me it’s more than 10 times harder than going to the Moon. Planning and preparing for Mars mission. But I think that the human spirit is to explore and it’s the nearest possibility to have another planet. So we gonna go there.
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