50 Years After The Moon Landing, What's The Next 'Moon Shot'?

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Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, the first men to land on the moon, plant the U.S. flag on the lunar surface, July 20, 1969. (NASA via AP)
Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin, the first men to land on the moon, plant the U.S. flag on the lunar surface, July 20, 1969. (NASA via AP)

Nearly 50 years ago — July 20, 1969 — Apollo 11 touched down on the moon, a goal President John F. Kennedy had set seven years earlier.

The JFK Presidential Library in Dorchester is marking the coming anniversary this week as astronauts and scientists from around the world gathered Wednesday to reflect on a half century of space exploration.

I talked to students and the astronauts they look up to about what lies ahead in the exploration of space and ask, "What might be the next 'moon shot'?"

Chris Cassidy, a NASA astronaut from Houston:

When we reflect 50 years from now back... That's pretty exciting for me. If you just think about 100 years ago, maybe a little longer, the Wright brothers first flew their airplane. And now here we are. We've got the internet. We fly in space regularly. You've got people living on the space station for the last 18 years. My vision is that there is people living — not just professional astronauts but families perhaps or people going for a vacation — I don't know about the moon, but on Mars for sure.

Peter Volante:

In 1966, I came down to the MIT Instrumentation Lab to work on the development of the guidance computer software for the Apollo guidance computer, all the Apollo missions up through Apollo 17.

It may be considered biting the hand that fed me. But I think human space exploration is not really what we should put our efforts into. Climate change is the one that the fate of humanity hangs on. We should really be paying attention to that.

I'm really interested in astrobiology... finding life outside... I want to see if there's other life forms outside ourselves. I want to see astronauts go to Mars.

student Dominique Dang

Koichi Wakata, astronaut and vice president at JAXA, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency:

The next moon shot — it's a very good question. This was a great achievement 50 years ago. The next moon shot is, for me, we need to sustainably grow. In order for us to be able to do that, we go forward, or back to the moon, and we have to proceed onto the course toward Mars. To achieve this, as humanity, we need to base [it] on international collaboration.

Tracy Caldwell-Dyson, a NASA astronaut:

Realizing our dream today is to go back to the moon, not to just put footsteps but to lay a foundation, because if we're going to go anywhere beyond low earth orbit to other celestial bodies, to really explore what's out there — we are so blessed because of our Apollo brethren that were so brave to go there, to have the testbed that we have today of our moon. I see this as the next steps that we take.

This segment aired on June 20, 2019.

Simón Rios Reporter
Simón Rios is an award-winning bilingual reporter in WBUR's newsroom.



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