NASA/JPL/USGS (Moon)

STANDARDS

NGSS: Core Idea: ESS1.B

CCSS: Reading Informational Text: 6

TEKS: Science: 3.8C, 4.8C, 5.8D, 6.11A, 6.11.D; ELA: 3.7B, 3.7G, 4.7B, 4.7G, 5.7B, 5.7G, 6.6B, 6.6G

Back to the Moon!

The U.S. prepares to return to the moon—50 years after astronauts first landed there

On July 20, 1969, 530 million people around the world were glued to their TVs. They watched live as astronauts Buzz Aldrin (pictured above) and Neil Armstrong became the first people to walk on the moon. 

Now, 50 years later, the U.S. space agency, NASA, is preparing for a return trip. It’s designing a spaceship that will orbit, or travel around, the moon. The ship, called the Gateway, will be a home base from which astronauts can make short trips to the moon’s surface.

Returning to the moon will help NASA prepare for human space travel to faraway planets, like Mars. “We’re not just landing on the moon and coming home, we’re going to stay,” says Marshall Smith, who manages the Gateway project at NASA. “It’s tremendously exciting.”

On July 20, 1969, 530 million people around the world were glued to their TVs. They watched live as people walked on the moon for the first time. Those people were astronauts Buzz Aldrin (pictured above) and Neil Armstrong. 

That was 50 years ago. Today, NASA is planning a return trip. NASA is the U.S. space agency. It’s designing a spaceship. That spaceship will orbit, or travel around, the moon. The ship, called the Gateway, will be a home base for astronauts. From there, they can make short trips to the moon’s surface.

Returning to the moon will help further human space travel. It will prepare astronauts to someday visit even more distant places. One of those places is the planet Mars. “We’re not just landing on the moon and coming home,” says Marshall Smith. He manages the Gateway project at NASA. “We’re going to stay. It’s tremendously exciting.”

Space Explorers

Since 1969, hundreds of people have traveled to space (see Key Moments in Space Exploration). Today, astronauts spend months aboard the International Space Station, the research lab orbiting Earth. These missions take place close to home—about 400 kilometers (250 miles) away. 

The moon is about 386,000 kilometers (240,000 miles) from Earth. That’s far, but still much closer than planets like Mars. It would take astronauts nine months to get to Mars. The moon is about a three-day trip away. 

That makes the moon the perfect testing ground to prepare for missions deeper in space. On the moon, people will be exposed to much more radiation than on Earth. NASA is studying how these invisible waves of energy from the sun affect people’s health. 

Scientists hope to answer other questions about the moon too. For example, they wonder if ice on the moon could be used to make fuel or drinking water. 

Hundreds of people have traveled to space since 1969 (see Key Moments in Space Exploration). Today, astronauts spend months in space. They stay aboard the International Space Station. It’s a research lab orbiting Earth. These missions take place close to home. The station is about 400 kilometers (250 miles) away. 

The moon is about 386,000 kilometers (240,000 miles) from Earth. That’s far. But it’s still much closer than Mars. It would take astronauts nine months to get to that planet. The moon is about a three-day trip away. 

That makes the moon the perfect testing ground. There, astronauts could prepare for difficult missions deeper into space. People are exposed to some radiation on Earth. The sun produces these powerful energy waves. But radiation is much higher in space. NASA is studying how living on the moon could affect people’s health. 

Scientists hope to answer other questions about the moon too. For example, they wonder about ice on the moon. Could it be used to make fuel or drinking water?

Moon Outpost

The first section of the Gateway could launch as soon as 2022. The station will be assembled in space. It will have research labs and room for astronauts to live for months at a time. Astronauts could visit the moon’s surface by 2024.

Students like you could be some of the moon’s next visitors, says Smith. The first moon landing inspired Smith to work at NASA. He hopes NASA’s plans to return to the moon will inspire today’s kids. “The possibilities to work on space missions are endless,” he says. 

The first section of the Gateway could launch as soon as 2022. The station will be put together in space. It will have research labs. It will also have room for astronauts. They can live there for months at a time. Astronauts could visit the moon’s surface by 2024.

Students like you could be some of the moon’s next visitors, says Smith. The first moon landing inspired Smith to work at NASA. He hopes NASA’s plans to return to the moon will inspire today’s kids. “The possibilities to work on space missions are endless,” he says. 

Bonus Debate

Continue your lesson with a social studies connection!

GO!
Back to top
videos (1)
Skills Sheets (2)
Skills Sheets (2)
Lesson Plan (2)
Lesson Plan (2)