Next month, the nation celebrates what NASA accomplished 50 years ago, landing men on the moon and returning them safely to Earth.
WAAY 31 sat down with Marshall Space Flight Center Director Jody Singer about what's to come in the next 50 years. She says NASA has learned a lot since the 1960s. They will build on those foundations and correct a few oversites, including why we never landed a woman on the moon.
“I’m not sure, but we’re gonna fix it this time," Singer said.
Marshall’s first female director is looking ahead to those next five decades, excited to be part of writing America’s next great chapter in space exploration. It includes a much more diverse astronaut core reflected in the new name for the upcoming missions, Artemis, Apollo’s twin sister.
“We’ll not only be putting the first American woman on the moon, but we’ll also be putting the next man on the moon,” Singer said.
It doesn’t stop there. NASA’s goals are much more aggressive for the next half century, much more than "flags and footprints."
“We get closer to the moon again. We go back. We set up civilization. We make a sustainable presence,” Singer said. “We want to see what’s out there. We’ve always had in our DNA the need to discover and understand how it was formed."
No one has stepped foot on the moon in almost 50 years. Over the next 50 years, NASA plans to step on it, orbit it, build on it, live on it and use it to launch us into deep space. It’s a plan that harkens back to a vision the Marshall Space Flight Center's first-ever director, Wernher von Braun, had even before NASA was established.
Von Braun’s daughter, Margrit, said the red planet was always her father’s goal.
“Mars was always the destination, really. The moon was a stop-over on the way to prepare to go to Mars,” Margrit von Braun said.
She says he would be “profoundly disappointed” that we’re not further along, this far into the 21st century.
“It has been so long since we’ve been to the moon and so long in preparing to go to Mars. I think he would be shocked,” she said.
Now, it is finally happening. Testing is underway on major components of the SLS on an accelerated schedule to launch next year, with boots on the moon by 2024. When Vice President Mike Pence was in Huntsville in March, he said NASA needs to think bigger, fail smarter and work harder.
“I felt like he was talking directly to me,” Singer said.
Singer’s team knows what’s at stake for NASA. It must deliver, certainly in the next five years to get to the next 50 years. She knows, it's an ambitious timeline.
“But we also know that the safest place to stay is on the ground," she said. "And that's not what you do with exploration. We’re in the right place. We’re training for it and we’re ready to go.”