Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterApollo 19 was one of the last Apollo program missions. However it was never initiated. It was cancelled due to budget constrictions by Congress. The mission was originally supposed to happen in 1972. The mission is one of the remaining Apollo missions that never left the drawing board. In some ways the end of the Apollo Program saw the end of any progress towards further lunar missions and possible development of human interplanetary space flight.
The implications of the failed initiation of Apollo 19 and other subsequent planned missions were many. First the next steps in lunar exploration never happened. The missions were supposed to allow for more in depth study of the moon and the formations on it. Even though we have great probes and equipment much information that might have been found by up close study was never found. There is also the fact that knowledge gathered by traveling to the moon lost any further real world testing. What made the Apollo program so successful was that the ideas were put into practice with test missions. The technology to safely get to Mars might have been discovered by more regular travel to the Moon. Now we will never know what technological breakthrough in space flight or space propulsion might have been developed.
So why didn’t the subsequent Apollo missions get completed? There were actually many forces at play. The first was the end of the space race. There is no official date for when the rivalry in space flight between the United States and the Soviet Union ended. All we know is that it ended when the two space agencies started to work together namely on the Apollo-Soyuz mission in the 1970s. Without the political incentive that the Cold War produced to advance space flight support started to wane. The other major factor was the economy. The United State went through a period of economic stagnation and recession that crippled its economy. With a bad economy the United States government had fewer resources to devote to its space program. This lead to congress cutting funding for the Apollo program and forcing NASA to go with cheaper alternatives.
We’ve also recorded an entire episode of Astronomy Cast all about Exploration of the Moon. Listen here, Episode 114: The Moon, Part 2: Exploration of the Moon.