When Do You Think Humans Will Return to the Moon?

Article written: 25 Aug , 2011
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

[/caption]
We’re conducting a completely informal, unscientific, off-the-cuff survey of Universe Today readers. When do you think that humans will return to the Moon?

Just give us your responses in the comments. We’re thinking of pulling your answers together to try and wrangle the zeitgeist about human space exploration.


126 Responses

  1. kkt says

    20-40 years, and they won’t be from the United States.

    • Inundated says

      Of the 540 trained Astronauts, 85% are from the U.S. If these Astronauts don’t want to do their jobs then who else can? They’re being paid anywhere from $75K to $140K to do their job. If they don’t want to terraform the Moon and Mars then they should be fired and their jobs will be outsourced like everything else. This country was built on people with a “can do” attitude, not “you want me to do what?”.

      • Anonymous says

        Um, it’s not the astronaut corp themselves that are unwilling…

        If going to the Moon was only a matter of ‘who wants to go?’ and nothing else, we would never have stopped going.

      • William Sparrow says

        Great point. I just don’t see much scientific value in returning.

      • Anonymous says

        Yet the US and other countries (and soon private entities) continue to send *un*manned probes there, they must think there’s yet more to be learned. (as the constant increases in the estimate of the Lunar water content tends to prove)

        And, as your response implies, there are also reasons for going to the Moon (and other places beyond the atmosphere) that are not about science. Indeed, we *first* went there primarily for reasons of geopolitics, though science was rightly along for the ride…

      • x x says

        There isn’t science value in sending humans instead of machines. There’s a heck of a lot of engineering value, though, and the inspiration value is priceless. If we want to get people interested in science while they’re young, this is one of the most effective ways.

      • kkt says

        It’s not lack of astronauts. It’s lack of funding. Manned space missions are expensive.

        I say 20 years minimum because it took the USA 10 years of active space development, giving NASA a blank check, to get to the moon. Since it’s no longer a cold war prestige project, no country is going to give their space agency a blank check. That’s also assuming they already know how to make ICBMs and have a substantial engineering base to work with. It would have to be done with smaller annual funding. I’m estimating at least 5 years before any country decides it’s important, then 15 years to do the job.

    • Inundated says

      Of the 540 trained Astronauts, 85% are from the U.S. If these Astronauts don’t want to do their jobs then who else can? They’re being paid anywhere from $75K to $140K to do their job. If they don’t want to terraform the Moon and Mars then they should be fired and their jobs will be outsourced like everything else. This country was built on people with a “can do” attitude, not “you want me to do what?”.

  2. Humans may return to the Moon by 2020. The United States may never return to the Moon. I suspect the next flag we see on the Lunar surface will be Chinese.

  3. Anonymous says

    I agree with previous comments that the next human visitors will probably not be Americans. If US astronauts return, it will probably be in the 2030-2035 time frame.

  4. Anonymous says

    …actually, let me correct that. If there is a private commercial initiative, then Americans may get back to the moon earlier than 2030. The US government however, probably won’t seek to (or manage to) return before then, if at all.

  5. Murad Özer says

    unless someone finds natural resources to plunder, never will the humanity travel to moon.

  6. Anonymous says

    The Chinese won’t be on the Moon by 2020. They are in no rush and have no reason to hurry.

    2030 at the earliest if SLS is canceled and NASA starts work on a truly sustainable path. If SLS is allowed to continue, it will eventually be cancelled and we won’t be back until 2040 or later.

    The wild card here is commercial. If they can find a viable business case then we could be back before 2030. I find it interesting that Musk and his crew have been working on lander configurations for Dragon. He is pursuing a truly sustainable exploration path.

  7. Anonymous says

    The Chinese won’t be on the Moon by 2020. They are in no rush and have no reason to hurry.

    2030 at the earliest if SLS is canceled and NASA starts work on a truly sustainable path. If SLS is allowed to continue, it will eventually be cancelled and we won’t be back until 2040 or later.

    The wild card here is commercial. If they can find a viable business case then we could be back before 2030. I find it interesting that Musk and his crew have been working on lander configurations for Dragon. He is pursuing a truly sustainable exploration path.

  8. Will Baird says

    My bet is that the next people will be on the Moon around 2025. It’ll be a close race between the US gov, private US industry, and China.

    • US gov would not race private industry.

      I’d say another space race will kick off in 2018 between China and USA. China will “win” in that they will land a man on the moon before the USA go back, but the USA will go back soom after with a Dragon or Orion (or both) out of pride. probably in 2022.

  9. Zachary Singer-Englar says

    It seems to me like most people have the same view, the US Government can’t get there any sooner that 2030. And then only if we seriously re-appropriate our national budget (and keep it that way).

    @Murad Ozer: go check out the results from the LCROSS mission and tell me there isn’t sufficient natural resources to make mining the profitable.

    but the most compelling reason for a Moon base is that it would allow us to generate fuel outside of Earth’s gravity well. I realize I am beating a dead horse here but a lunar fueling station is pretty integral to any long term plan to exploit off world resources. The Moon has a lot of stuff we could use to manufacture ships and electronics off world, but the real profit lies in harvesting large amounts of material from asteroids.To do that, and to make that profitable, a lunar station will be a necessity (barring any unforeseen leaps in our understanding of physics and propulsion technology).

    Lastly, it is significantly more likely that the next mission to the Moon will be privately funded.

    • William Sparrow says

      You mention profit three times in your comment. With the state of the US government presently, your last sentence rings true. Any attempt at a manned mission to Luna or anywhere else will likely be a privately funded venture. I’m just not convinced that the ROI justifies the scientific discovery that would result. I’m much more inclined to see those investment dollars spent on robotic missions to Titan, Europa and beyond. I”m not a huge advocate of repeating a mission that’s been accomplished. Simply doing it to exploit off world resources in the attempt to capture profits seems a bit short sited scientifically to me. Just my opinion…..

      • Hollister David says

        The lunar cold traps are some of the most interesting places in the solar system. As low as 30 to 40 degrees Kelvin, they can get colder than Pluto.

        Chandrayaan 1’s elevated CPR indicates ice sheets at least two meters thick. It’s believed some of the vapors from comet impacts find their way to the polar cold traps. These bodies of ice are thought be accumulations over billions of years.

        The accumulated layers in these ice sheets would be to the history of the solar system what the fossil record is to the history of life on earth.

    • There are no natural resources valuable enough to pay for the cost of transport form the moon. Even if it were sitting on the surface and could simply be loaded into the capsule it wouldn’t be worth the cost of going there. When some years ago the Chinese floated some rather ambitious plans the moment that they mentioned lunar mining I concluded that it was just hot air as there is no way of doing that profitably with any reasonably foreseeable technology.

      • Anonymous says

        You are assuming the raw materials need to be shipped to the Earth in order to be “useful”. The entire point of using lunar resources is that it is more expensive to get stuff from Earth to space that it is to get the same mass from the moon into space due to Earth’s deeper gravity well. Using lunar resources, the cost of manufacturing items in orbit are dramatically lower than doing the same manufacturing with Earth resources.

  10. new_haven_yankee says

    Before Americans (USians) return to the Moon? Not before 2030. The Chinese may get there in about 2020. Private enterprise won’t get there before somebody else pays for all the infrastructure — not before 2050.

  11. YES. But I expect, non-robotically, it will be between private enterprise/tourism, India, and China. Next grouping is Japan, Brazil, and Middle East. Sometimes, as a Galactic Citizen, would probably include some future ETI simply because Homo sapiens aren’t going to be capable of it if they don’t by 2030-2050 due to self-destruction with climate extremes, droughts, flooding, starvation, war (chance of nuclear war),and # 1 reason: over-population.

  12. William says

    Wow, an unscientific zeitgeist wranglefest!

    How about when our population has enough science understanding to ignore worthless “polls” and vote for leaders who value reality and science too? That might be the “Second Enlightenment” a millennium from now.

  13. It will happen when the first country that realizes how important science is to.. everything! and budgets accordingly. I’m guessing the Chinese or perhaps Indians.

  14. It will happen when the first country that realizes how important science is to.. everything! and budgets accordingly. I’m guessing the Chinese or perhaps Indians.

  15. Mike Petersen says

    I think it won’t be any time soon. If there’s anything I’ve gleaned from the last couple of years reading about space exploration, it’s this.

    We want to find life.

    We won’t find it on the moon. Phooey on the moon. We need to send our guys and gals to Mars. That’s where the (life) action is.

    So, forget the moon and go for Mars.

    • Anonymous says

      Not everyone is driven by the desire to find extraterrestrial life (important though that is). All the other planetary scientists would find plenty to do on definitely dead objects, given access to them. Likewise, given access to the Lunar surface and asteroids, resources there can be utilized…and then it’s *preferable* that it be a lifeless body.

      And if you put yourself in that single-purpose box, you risk running out of justifications for going into space very quickly.

      Suppose you *do* find evidence of life on Mars and/or Europa, and/or Enceladus, and/or Titan. Then what? We’ve already seen how a program centered around reaching the Moon ‘first,’ ran out of support, once it succeeded…

  16. Probably around 2030 or 2035, and it will be someone from China or perhaps India. I’m beginning to think Europe and the US are economically spent forces now… future Moon programs will come from expanding economies/wealth generation in Asia.

  17. Eric Conrad says

    As much as I would like to think it’ll happen sometime in the 2020s, I do not believe the will is there. If the Chinese do it, the USA might get hyped up about it, but somehow I doubt they have the patience to really pull it off these days. It seems to me the commercial sector will get there before the US government does. I’m guessing 2030s if we’re lucky. But it may not even happen by the 40s. Just my two cents…

  18. Based on their plans for the immediate future I don’t think the Chinese will be he first to return to the Moon, they are looking for life as well. If anything, I think the US stands the best chance of returning to the lunar surface, albeit the vehicle – and maybe even the travelers! – may be private-sector.

  19. Eric Conrad says

    simply put, I can’t imagine it will ever be profitable to mine the moon until the cost to get there and back is as lower than LEO is now…

  20. Anonymous says

    I think the Chinese will be next, both to do science and for other reasons, and within the next ten-fifteen years tops.

    • Anonymous says

      I agree the Chinese will be next, but in the early to mid 2030s for the technology and prestige. I also don’t think the US (gov) will go to the moon again. I’m afraid that NASA will be allowed to wither and die and we will lose our present advantage to others. NASA has been woefully lax in advertising how much it has added to the economy (spinoffs, etc.). We need leaders with vision, and I don’t see that coming any time soon.

    • William Sparrow says

      I love how so many are jumping on the Chinese bandwagon. Cheap goods and unregulated currency can only take an economy and a nation so far……

      • Anonymous says

        This isn’t the place for politics. But for the record, the Chinese currency does not float on the exchange markets; it’s value is managed by the government. Definitely the opposite of “unregulated.”

        And remember all the jokes (see old Jerry Lewis movies) about cheap Japanese cameras in the post war? They of course went on the make the best later on. It’s often argued that a good strategy in markets is to dominate the low-cost, high volume segment first, gain economies of scale, and then innovate upward. China in fact already makes quite a number of high tech goods, especially in electronics/computing and green tech.

      • squidgeny says

        The Chinese are putting a lot of money into their space industry. The bandwagon is looking more comfortable than the other bandwagons.

      • x x says

        As someone who would bet on China for this, I would point out that it’s not really a matter of money. It’s not cheap, certainly, but we’re only talking a few billion dollars. The reason I think China will do it and not us is that their government is demonstrably capable of executing a plan that takes a decade, and the American election cycle has reduced “long term planning” to two years.

  21. Frankly? I don’t know. If we’re talking about a manned lunar flyby or a manned orbital mission, it could happen within 10 years, or it may not happen for another 50 years.

    Government agencies never have enough money and of course, we always have that damn buerocracy – you don’t know whether they will send a person to the Moon even if you raise the NASA budget, because you never know where your money are going… We’ve had a whole bunch of wasteful programmes in the past.

    But we never know how the political scene will change in the next 10-15 years. And, of course, we have the private companies. A manned Soyuz mission can be sent to a circumlunar mission within 6 years. Private companies like Dragon may also do it.

    Our world is very dynamic. The future is not clear. There are a lot of signs for both optimism ( private space companies ) and pessimism ( Earthly problems like budget crisis situations)…

    So I would say – don’t try to guess if it will happen in 2018, 2028 or 2038. I don’t know. You don’t know. Back in 1957 few people believed that men will go to the Moon within 15 years, and it really happened – in 1969. After than few people believed that there won’t be another deep space mission for another 40 years. And this happened.

    The only thing we can do is to hope for the best.

    Svetoslav from Bulgaria

  22. Kuy Abbad says

    I think we need second cold war

  23. SC says

    The moon has water, resources, enough material to provide radiation shielding and, at least, some gravity. This could provide us the unique opportunity to learn how to sustain life away from the earth. What we need is to find ways to live away from earth. If we fail to establish viable human populations in the solar system away from earth, human life is probably doomed to vanish with the next asteroid impact.

  24. Anonymous says

    I think they would be back to the moon much sooner then i am reading here if they new of a way to overcome the temparture problem.The sun is getting hotter all the time,they do not have the technology to deal with the increase of temparture since the last vist,for a manned ship.

    • Anonymous says

      There is no ‘temperature problem’ that we don’t already know how to deal with.

      Yes, as a matter of stellar physics, the Sun is getting hotter…but at such a rate that it will be hundreds of millions of years before it matters. It *definitely* isn’t any different now, than in 1969-1972 when we were going there.

      And if it were a near-term problem, then all life on Earth wold be in trouble, Moon or not.

  25. Seth Vitrano-Wilson says

    2040, after extensive robotic bases have been built and everything’s in place for an exotic vacation destination.

  26. Robert Rowland says

    August 2, 2021.

  27. Eric Thiel says

    Between 2020 and 2025 I think we will see the first Chinese manned missions on the moon. Then private US companies will soon follow. We will most likely see humans land on an asteroid or Phobos before we see any return to the moon though.

  28. Kevin Girard says

    Never. If the monetary system keeps up it will continue to cost rediculous amounts to put astronauts and other things, in orbit. Besides, going on the moon would be a waste of time as Mars would be the better candidate to explore.

  29. Kevin Girard says

    Never. If the monetary system keeps up it will continue to cost rediculous amounts to put astronauts and other things, in orbit. Besides, going on the moon would be a waste of time as Mars would be the better candidate to explore.

  30. Don says

    Difficult to say, but it won’t be soon (ie. not before 2025) because:
    1. It doesn’t make economic sense at present…forget any private initiatives.
    2. The scientific interest, compared to other targets in the solar system, does not justify the costs.
    3. National pride may propel some nations to try…won’t be the USA though…been there, done that. China and India, as noted earlier, are best bets.

    • Hollister David says

      Contrary to space cadet wet dreams, any Mars base will be very dependent on earth for many decades or more likely centuries to come. Apollo trips to the moon were about 10 billion a pop. My guess is that each Mars Direct trip will be around 40 billion. 40 billion each Mars launch window is not sustainable.

      I’d give Mars Direct 5 presidential election cycles tops. It would be canceled deader than Johnson and Nixon killed Apollo.

      Best case for Mars Direct: half a dozen abandoned habs gathering martian dust and a half trillion flushed down the toilet.

    • Anonymous says

      I absolutly disagree, the next mission to the moon is NOT going to be scientific, it’s going to be commercial. There is huge money to be made in flights to the moon and anywhere else we can get to. The private sector is only now realizing this and if there is one thing that drives invention harder than all-out war, it’s greed.

  31. petr says

    20th July 2069. Enslaved humans are forced to live on the moon by their Plutonian overlords in retribution for downgrading their planetary status.

  32. petr says

    20th July 2069. Enslaved humans are forced to live on the moon by their Plutonian overlords in retribution for downgrading their planetary status.

  33. Anonymous says

    As a teenager I was an avid fan of the moon landings and followed their progress intently. Since then a return to the moon seems further away every year. As it stands now I fully expect that we will start running out of resources and never return to the moon. We need a technology breakthrough in spacecraft propulsion or we aren’t going anywhere

  34. Anonymous says

    Possibly before 2020…and it may not be a mission sponsored by any government.

    Humans may again fly *around* the Moon without landing, as early as 2014. That may also be primarily a privately-funded flight, though one government (no, not China) may be involved…

  35. Garrett Harper says

    By 2015, rovers & other things will be getting sent. Depending on discoveries & the possibility of ISRU, a person could be sent to the moon by 2020, latest 2025.

  36. Anonymous says

    I see a possible implosion of the human condition as we exhaust resources and energy. If this is so it might be that the majority of people who will ever go into space have already done so.

    LC

    • William Sparrow says

      Agreed. I’d rather that the seemingly limited financial resources(at least in terms of NASA’s contribution) be invested on a more macro level; ie robotic rovers on the surface of Titan and Europa, and an investment in projects akin to the JWST and New Horizons.

    • Anonymous says

      This may be tangential, but I have been wondering if technological advances are beginning to make humans obsolete. Each tech improvement seems to displace more worker bees in favor of a single overseer. When simple robots can cook, clean, build for us how many more humans will be passé? Any thoughts on this?

      • squidgeny says

        Obsolescence is in the eye of the beholder. If robots ever “think”, then they might “think” that we’re obsolete. But humans won’t consider themselves obsolete unless they consider their sole purpose to be work. Few do. Reducing the work week as far as possible is considered by many a worthwhile goal – even if mechanisation and computerisation ultimately reduces the work week to 0 hours. Every hour of manual labour done by a machine instead of a human is an hour potentially used for creative purposes – invention, science, art. We can maximise those latter three by eliminating manual labour from humanity.

      • Anonymous says

        I completely understand your point, but my concern is that the benefits of such technology will not be realized by a majority of the population, leading to more distance between haves and have nots and a kind of fracturing of humanity. The wealthy will be the first to benefit from robot laborers but I’m not so sure the other 99% will be in on it. Then add a growing world population and it gets worse.

      • Anonymous says

        I completely understand your point, but my concern is that the benefits of such technology will not be realized by a majority of the population, leading to more distance between haves and have nots and a kind of fracturing of humanity. The wealthy will be the first to benefit from robot laborers but I’m not so sure the other 99% will be in on it. Then add a growing world population and it gets worse.

      • Anonymous says

        I completely understand your point, but my concern is that the benefits of such technology will not be realized by a majority of the population, leading to more distance between haves and have nots and a kind of fracturing of humanity. The wealthy will be the first to benefit from robot laborers but I’m not so sure the other 99% will be in on it. Then add a growing world population and it gets worse.

      • Anonymous says

        The big thing to watch is the technology of the neural-cyber-interface. Notice how people are spending a huge amount of time twiddling with iPhones and the like. The constant requirement and demand for realtime digital information is going to see devices interfaced more closely into our senses and ultimately our brains. The other thing to be aware of is the quantum computer. This is a coming development which holds both fascination and dystopia. The moduli spaces for quantum black holes have a categorical equivalency with the algebra of quantum entanglements. We may simulate quantum gravity this way, but this also provides an encryption system for running quantum codes. If you think the world is fast and complex now, you have not seen anything! In fact the quantum computer may necessitate a brain-cyber interface at some point in order to manage the data load in real time. Frankly I do not want to live in this age.

        Robots are symptomatic of a type of problem with industrial or technological civilization. It is curiously an inverse to the previous agricultural age, which was never able to supply enough manpower to grow enough food for the population. The miracle of the agrarian age only lasted briefly around its origin ~ 5000 BCE. After then agricultural civilization was one of large scale hunger by and large, where archeologists continually find human remains that show stunted growth, malformed bones, and increased disease load over their previous hunter-gatherer ancestors. Industrial civilization has the opposite problem of not being able to provide enough jobs required for the demand. We have continual cycles of economic downturns, recessions and depressions (which can correspond to cycles of wars), where workers are thrown out. So there are elements of deprivation which occur for reasons inverse to what the agrarian age saw. Robots are a high-tech way of eliminating workers, at least in principle, but the vast numbers of impoverished populations are likely to provide cheap labor below robotic costs for some time into the future. Robots are likely to remain used for specialized fabrication work, though over time that category of work will expand. It will though be some time before we see robots at the drive up window at McDonalds.

        LC

      • Anonymous says

        As a Kurzweil reader I am absolutely of the belief that we are essentially going to merge with our technology at some point. Perhaps when I say that I wonder if humanity will become obsolete what I really mean is that I wonder if the majority of humanity will get left by the roadside while a small ‘elite’ of futurists/technologists (those with the resources to do so) makes the leap into cyborg life.

        Essentially it sounds like you agree with my idea – and I like your way of expressing it – that we are in a reverse agrarian age.

        It seems like many of us will live long enough to have to begin to choose whether we want to merge with our tech. This will be a huge human debate. In many ways we are seeing it trickle into the consciousness slowly. Many elite athletes seem to be under suspicion of enhancement, and the pressure to do so for them must be tremendous. Perhaps future athletes will be ‘developed’ by teams of people and the real contests will be feats of engineering towards who can build the best performing robo-humans.

        It is amazing that the arc of an analog civilization (us) goes through such a rapid evolution just 100 years past the beginning of it’s basic industrial age. The future will be unrecognizable.

      • Anonymous says

        Some elements of Kurzweil’s singularity may take shape, but I don’t see it as any panacea. For one thing it is most likely that people who have the greatest access to this will be those who are economically favored. I somehow don’t see people currently now fleeing Somalia or even the growing mobs of economically dispossessed in the US as being reeled into this system so that all their problems melt away. It is pretty obvious that this will play a far bigger role in our future than sending astronauts back to the moon or on to Mars. If quantum computers become commonplace, and there are already commercial forms of quantum encryption, the volumes of data we will need to push will grow by many orders of magnitude. The input/output requirements will most likely involve increased integration into our senses and neurophysiology.

        There are however likely limits to complexity. Already much of what we use the internet for is much the same as we needed to do in the past. Instead of getting paid with paper checks, we have direct deposit, and we pay bill more and more online. It also involves an added complexity of malware and what is this growing cyber-arms race. Increasingly this is taking on military dimensions. Most of this internet traffic is just to replace paper checks, which BTW replaced cash. So the future is likely to thrust us into conditions where all of this is happening at an exponentially faster pace. I imagine bond traders and hedge fund managers in a constant real time cyborg link in order to keep up with the system. The question that needs to be raised is whether this will lead to a sort of cyber-data fatigue. This may not be anthropologically sustainable.

        The other limit to complexity is that we are likely to face serious energy and resource limits which might put the brakes on a lot of this. This most likely means this system will not be “democratic,” and being inside the game will be important, for being off the game table will most likely mean grim poverty. So it all paints a possible future of an exponential growth of complexity within an unsustainable population on a planet that is being stripped away of its capacity to support us.

        LC

      • Anonymous says

        I agree. I do not see all of this tech as being a panacea, and that was precisely my point. If/when the day comes when I have the opportunity to ‘enhance’ myself with integrated technology I will give it a TON of thought as I believe it will represent the birth of a post-human age. The choice may be whether to die as an ‘analog’ human or leap into a possibly infinite future. As of this writing I am more inclined to die human, but there is no doubt in my mind things are gonna get real weird on earth and the exponential disparity between haves and have nots will create a lot of sadness.

        It used to be we could count on death as the ‘great equalizer’ but in the future it may not be so. These thoughts don’t give me comfort but I feel compelled to think about them out of sheer curiosity and wonder.

        I also believe it will somehow make my life (and others too, I hope) richer to REALIZE where we really stand at this moment in time. Post-humans may look back and wonder how it feels to be fragile and mortal, almost with longing. Death gives life poignancy b/c it makes life more urgent. If these are the dying days of the analog human then I wish to note it and live fully now.

      • Anonymous says

        I cover some of my thoughts on this in a reply to you above.

      • Anonymous says

        We are already entering what many describe as the “Trans-Human Age.” Early signs of this are present today in such devices as the Cardiac Pacemaker. The range of artificial implants continues to expand as more complex artificial organs are perfected. Note that 40 years after its introduction, pacemakers have become perfectly acceptable artificial implements.

        The era of 1950’s-1990’s product consumerism and later, debt culture is running into its limits. This period was the height of the Industrial Age, where life revolved around “competing with the Jones.” Today this lifestyle is increasing unfeasible, viewed increasingly as vain or wasteful, and is evidently environmentally unsustainable.

        The most advanced industrial economies are moving into the Information Age. In this period, the procurement and transition of knowledge will become the central force in daily life. Today, connected university graduates, brilliant CEOs (with the ability to market new ideas), mega corporations (with the skill and power to leverage the courts, politicians and markets) are the forces behind the rising plutocracy.

        Of course, each age is cumulative, the information Age runs on the infrastructure of the Industrial sectors of the economy. This in turn, runs on an industrialized agricultural industry. The difference is that in advanced economies, the agricultural sector employs few, and is no longer a driving force for economic change and dynamism. Increasingly as witnessed in the US, the manufacturing sector is undergoing the same structural and employment changes as the agricultural sector. US manufacturing has never been higher, yet its share of employment has plummeted. It is increasingly relegated to advanced production industries such as aerospace, where the workforce is smaller and more specialized.

        Being interested in space science seems to go hand in hand with being partial to futurism. As such, below are my predictions. You will probably find them in a similar vain as discussed in in Kurzweil’s works.

        The information age will end when the procurement and transmission of knowledge is no longer is a driving force behind our economy. This will signal a change in goals behind society’s attainment needs. Despite attempts by governments and corporations to curtail the free flow of information, it appears that knowledge is moving towards a free form of dispersion. The final resultant of this process may be the availability of all information everywhere, at any time required. Once this occurs, and the tools required to process this vast resource are perfected, the information economy will likely climax.

        Yesterday, we worked to purchase goods. Today we view information and it’s industrial hardware in the same light. Tomorrow we may see self-improvement in the same fashion. This Trans-Human Age – which will be built atop the Information Age – will begin in earnest when technologies to enhance our physical performance, our intelligence, and even our longevity become more effective and more readily available. Doubtless, the Information Age will likely continue to play a huge role in this period. It will become the springboard behind self-enhancement technologies.

        For instance, take LC’s example of the human-neural interface. This is a far less clumsy and more efficient way of communicating. It removes the need for bulky, consumer devices – a holdover of the industrial age – and replaces them with internal wireless systems and synaptic connections to our sensory inputs. This technology is already in development today. We can already send rudimentary simulated colours to a subject’s brain. This will eventually be developed to transmit pictures, video, text and sounds. You and I could then be connected in a worldwide web of minds. A “hive mind” exchanging ideas and thoughts. A.I. will probably be developed for communication and social reasons. Internal A.I. systems could help us sort and interpret a world of information. It is unlikely such scenarios as seen in Sci-Fi/horror cinematography will play out in any major way. The vast amount of A.I. algorithms will be developed for commercial uses. Artificial intelligence will likely become our intellectual sidekick.

        Certainly, many – if not most – people will initially find these idea repulsive. However the competitive nature of society will necessitate these changes. Those that don’t get on the bandwagon will be left behind, economically, socially and politically. Eventually such adaptations will become normal. This process will continue on many fronts, from gene manipulation, to life extension, to physical enhancements, to A.I.

        Of course, history tends to be very unpredictable. There are a few caveats to these predictions. The most obvious concern is some kind of interruption in civilization. The current economic system remains volatile as (see LC’s remarks). It generally benefits the most creative and resourceful (the plutocracy) at the expense of everyone else. Workers in turn have become much more efficient while the average work hours have increased. Not working in today’s system relegates most people to welfare status or worse. thus, our hyper-consumerism economic model is quickly becoming a liability for civilization. It is not sustainable indefinitely.

        Much of future human space exploration will depend on these trends, as well as political/social factors outside of our ability to envision. Remember the Arab Spring came about rather suddenly, even if in hindsight, the region appeared as a tinderbox ready for change. China and other world powers could be facing similar changes which will affect the course of space exploration.

        Predicting when the political/economic circumstances will allow another nationalistic project such as a lunar landing is a fools venture.

      • Anonymous says

        I don’t doubt that a Trans-Human age will be competitive and integration of tech will spread quickly. I agree with Kurzweil again on this front: barring some unforeseen decimation of humanity, all technological advances that can happen will happen. Nothing stops the advance. All political and social opposition is eventually defeated by curiosity and economic opportunity.

      • Anonymous says

        As a Kurzweil reader I am absolutely of the belief that we are essentially going to merge with our technology at some point. Perhaps when I say that I wonder if humanity will become obsolete what I really mean is that I wonder if the majority of humanity will get left by the roadside while a small ‘elite’ of futurists/technologists (those with the resources to do so) makes the leap into cyborg life.

        Essentially it sounds like you agree with my idea – and I like your way of expressing it – that we are in a reverse agrarian age.

        It seems like many of us will live long enough to have to begin to choose whether we want to merge with our tech. This will be a huge human debate. In many ways we are seeing it trickle into the consciousness slowly. Many elite athletes seem to be under suspicion of enhancement, and the pressure to do so for them must be tremendous. Perhaps future athletes will be ‘developed’ by teams of people and the real contests will be feats of engineering towards who can build the best performing robo-humans.

        It is amazing that the arc of an analog civilization (us) goes through such a rapid evolution just 100 years past the beginning of it’s basic industrial age. The future will be unrecognizable.

  37. Thomas Gardner says

    Realistically? America’s science projects could be left in the dirt with the next president. Although, someone who supports could easily take the place instead, but with research opportunities running out, I’d have to assume China or Russia of the ESA would have to get there next. In that case, I’d say somewhere in the ballpark of 10-20 years. That’s not the most optimistic, but the most realistic.

  38. Anonymous says

    I’ll venture a guess, SpaceX/Bigelow, seeking to mine fuel and rare minerals, around 2020. Although, it could be the professor, in the library, with the candlestick..

  39. Anonymous says

    I think when the Russians, or Chinese, are ready to put up a hotel and a space station on the moon. I would say, around year 2030?

  40. Jim Scotti says

    2017 when a SpaceX Dragon is sent on an free return loop around the Moon with 4 paying customers aboard. The next human bootprint will be in 2023 and will be Chinese.

  41. Lionel L says

    China says they’ll do it by 2020 and I believe them . Although, the Indians might decided to get all space racey and try to beat them. I’m still hopeful though that an American foot might be the next one set on the moon. The astronaut probably won’t be a government employee, but I’m OK with that.

    • x x says

      I think you’ve basically got it, though I might quibble with the timing. I think the Chinese will be there in 10-15 years, though it will be longer before there is anything long duration. The next Americans will be part of a private effort, and will probably happen about 5 years from when somebody decides to throw a billion dollars at it (assuming Falcon Heavy and a least one Bigelow module are operational by then).

  42. EK says

    Right away. I think their is no bound as to what the human mind can do when it set to goal.
    You have to remember that space is not limited to the goverments. There are still those who want to go. And shall go. So I plant this butterfly efect. If everyone who made a comment would have made it positive. I beleive that we would have already gone back. Who ra for the foward thinkers.

  43. Chrys says

    if we don’t get off we are doomed so why not get on with it.

  44. Chrys says

    if we don’t get off we are doomed so why not get on with it.

  45. HeadAroundU says

    Moon 2030? China, India or Russia.

    Mars 2030? USA EU

    That’s all manned. Looks like robotic missions first.

  46. HeadAroundU says

    Moon 2030? China, India or Russia.

    Mars 2030? USA EU

    That’s all manned. Looks like robotic missions first.

  47. Fons Jena says

    Humans in space? I like the sound of it but seriously I think it is better to get some robots/automated machines on the surface of the moon. They should make fuels, materials and preparations for human spaceflight around 2030. Putting humans in space for tasks that robots can do is just a waste of time, resources and money. Yes I really love robots so maybe I am over estimating their capabilities.
    In fact, do humans have to go to the moon? If it is only for materials/mining you don’t need humans and for a possible habitable world the moon is not my first pick. OK for a prestige project it would be very nice thought (wasn’t here when Man landed on the moon).

    (offtopic): first comment, great website and have been following it for a long time, keep it up!

    Fons Jena from Flanders

  48. Peter G Brooks says

    When the Chinese go there within the next few years…

  49. It’s always about the money. A shame but a fact of life. We can’t get anywhere without it and yet who talks about the cost of the Apollo missions today? Who’s talking about the cost of Hubble today? The cost of the Voyager probes? I could go on.

    Today we talk a lot about money for JWST, a possible asteroid landing or a Mars shot. The reality is these missions, if successful, are priceless. It’s romanticises the matter though as we’re going to need loads of cash to do any manned mission.

    I don’t see a moon landing by humans any time soon unless the Chinese have a go – and good luck to them if they do.

    I think one day NASA, ESA, JAXA, Roscosmos, CNSA et al will get together and combine resources on a possible Mars landing. The problem is that the mission preparation could be fragmented and the chance of success could be diminished.

  50. It’s always about the money. A shame but a fact of life. We can’t get anywhere without it and yet who talks about the cost of the Apollo missions today? Who’s talking about the cost of Hubble today? The cost of the Voyager probes? I could go on.

    Today we talk a lot about money for JWST, a possible asteroid landing or a Mars shot. The reality is these missions, if successful, are priceless. It’s romanticises the matter though as we’re going to need loads of cash to do any manned mission.

    I don’t see a moon landing by humans any time soon unless the Chinese have a go – and good luck to them if they do.

    I think one day NASA, ESA, JAXA, Roscosmos, CNSA et al will get together and combine resources on a possible Mars landing. The problem is that the mission preparation could be fragmented and the chance of success could be diminished.

  51. Kostas Harvatis says

    I’d say the chinese, in the next 10-20 years. They already have a general plan, they’re the rising superpower and the economics of it are definately *not* an issue. Political prestige within their 1,5b people and all the tech merits that come along.

  52. Kostas Harvatis says

    I’d say the chinese, in the next 10-20 years. They already have a general plan, they’re the rising superpower and the economics of it are definately *not* an issue. Political prestige within their 1,5b people and all the tech merits that come along.

  53. Bil Irving says

    I’m 39. Not in my lifetime.

  54. Anonymous says

    Just be honest, there are no resources worth mining on the moon. All this bla bla about having to go to the moon to mine resources are just some weak try-to-be arguments to try to keep the constellations program standing. Just look at the timing when all these news feeds came out.

    Scientifically there’s still a lot worth doing on the moon. But big science projects however are (to be) government funded, and these days, there simply isn’t any money for monster projects like this.

    The only reason to go to the moon is tourism. So the first step and initial infrastructure will be made by tourism companies. They will invest because they have the only reasonable reason to believe they can make profit.

    And then, all the hotel rooms will be occupied by governmental payed scientists and space engineers…

    • Anonymous says

      Given sufficiently low-cost transportation (and it need not be magically so) platinum group metals could be the first profitable materials to be returned from the Lunar surface.

      And this is not remotely justification for Constellation, that architecture was likely too expensive to even finish, much less show any kind of break-even on returning anything.

      Fortunately, Constellation (or anything else that resembles Apollo) isn’t the only way to get humans to the Moon, as your points about tourism suggest…

    • Hollister David says

      Given existing paradigms Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation renders transportation too expensive to achieve ROI on the usual commodities: platinum, gold, diamonds or even pure crack cocaine.

      Propellant at different locations can break the exponent in the rocket equation and vastly simplify transportation in space.

      Therefore water is the most valuable space resource. Hydrogen and oxygen bipropellant is one of the higher ISP chemical propellants.

      And it looks like the moon has plenty of water
      http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/Mini-RF/multimedia/feature_ice_like_deposits.html

      I don’t favor Constellation or the SLS. I’m hoping something like the ULA’s architecture will come to pass:
      http://www.ulalaunch.com/site/docs/publications/AffordableExplorationArchitecture2009.pdf

  55. Mervyn says

    Im 50 now . I do not think I will see people on the moon again in my lifetime. Just glad I remember 1969

  56. I personally favour an Asimov approach. If we can build a couple of humanoid robots and perhaps a rover-style robot, and send them up as a robot crew, you’d have enough “man-power” to be flexible and do something useful in preparation for humans. Perhaps assemble a simple habitat, or harvest regolith for water or fuels. Even do some exploration. Think of Robonaut 2 with legs or wheels.

    Over two years of sending these robots further supplies, you could have a small outpost built, with a ready and waiting supply of food/water, and some robotic exploration already done!

    Then astronauts. Target Date: 2026.

    • Hollister David says

      This.

      Robots vs humans is a false dichotomy.

      Harvesting lunar water looks much more doable since they found what seem to be 2 meter thick ice sheets in the polar cold traps.

  57. 2020-2030 decade, maybe the chinese

  58. squidgeny says

    Without reading any other comments yet, I see China doing it sometime in the 2020’s. I think they will have a view to surpassing the achievements of the US – either they will do this by pulling off a more exciting Moon landing (eg. more people, more equipment, longer stay, etc) or they will use a simpler Moon landing as preparation for something that will surpass the US’s achievements – such as going beyond the Moon or putting a permanent base of some kind up there.

    Either way, my money is definitely on China.

  59. Anonymous says

    Been there, done that. I think that if NASA, ESA, or RFSA were to mount a manned mission, it would probably be to Mars, not the Moon. I can’t see the voting public being happy to foot the exorbitant bill to revisit something we have already achieved. Mars, however, is still a subject of excitement. That said, the expense to put people on Mars would be exponentially larger than that to the Moon, and with the world’s financial system on the brink of collapse, it may never happen. I personally would like to see low-G manufacturing on and in orbit around the moon. This may be necessary if a mission to Mars is ever considered. It all seems to easy in Sci-Fi books. We live in hope.

  60. Olivier Gosselin says

    Not before 2030.

  61. 2026…they’ll aim for 2020 but miss it completely.

  62. Bill Gawne says

    By 2025. Not necessarily humans from the US of A.

  63. Anonymous says

    I wouldn’t discount the middle east completely. There is a lot of turmoil there right now, but if the unite in a few years, they could rise to rival China very quickly. I can envision a space race between China and the middle east.

    As far as private enterprise, is it fair to label them under one country? They are all international companies right? Does it count if a US company pays for the venture, but hires Chinese or Indians to actually make the trip?

  64. Anonymous says

    The next country on the moon will be China. The time frame wil be when they get there. The moon is far more important than going to Mars. We need to develop survival , building, and resource gathering techniques on the moon before we go to Mars.

    We know that live is out there somewhere and hopefully we or it fines us first. Today we need to develop ways to save this planet, which I have some doubt about mankind accomplishing that goal. However, let us remain positive.

  65. Sam Reid says

    I’m 17 and I doubt it in my lifetime. Maybe sometime around 2050-2070 when there is actual overpopulation/food shortages and governments start to realize how pertinent space exploration really is. I think there will be robots mining the moon/asteroids before humans return to build a base on the moon/mars.

  66. Debi-Lee Wilkinson says

    The OpenLuna Foundation is aiming for sooner rather than later by optimizing mission architecture and using sponsorship and entertainment revenue to fund the missions. We will count year zero when we have $5 Million dollars and from there 7 to 10 years.

  67. Ed Sweet says

    I think humans will return to the moon between 2038 and 2056. Probably Americans, launched by a private group that is sort of a successor to NASA’s manned spaceflight effort. Russians will follow shortly thereafter. There will already be a robotic infrastructure in place on the moon when they land.

  68. Ed Sweet says

    My rationale for America in 2038 to 2056:

    1.) Pulled it out of my hat, and it sounded good and plausible.

    2.) America is still the only truly “global” superpower, and will remain the only one for the forseeable future (see Stratfor). American history (and history in general) follows a pattern of Rout-Rally-Rout-Rally…we’re in a Rout right now (last big Rout was the Great Depression, and we had a mini-Rout in the ’70’s), and the next Rally will have a lot of momentum.

    If the next “Rally” does not come, (in America or elsewhere like Russia or China…Russia might be a better prospect in the long run, more self-sufficient in resources), then it will be centuries before humans return to the moon (look up the term “ecotechnic” for longer-term, sustainable, relatively advanced societies, after the fossil fuels have run out).

    But I think people will…either in the next generation, or in the very distant future. I do not think humans will become extinct for a very long time, even if we remain confined to Earth.

  69. Ed Sweet says

    My rationale for America in 2038 to 2056:

    1.) Pulled it out of my hat, and it sounded good and plausible.

    2.) America is still the only truly “global” superpower, and will remain the only one for the forseeable future (see Stratfor). American history (and history in general) follows a pattern of Rout-Rally-Rout-Rally…we’re in a Rout right now (last big Rout was the Great Depression, and we had a mini-Rout in the ’70’s), and the next Rally will have a lot of momentum.

    If the next “Rally” does not come, (in America or elsewhere like Russia or China…Russia might be a better prospect in the long run, more self-sufficient in resources), then it will be centuries before humans return to the moon (look up the term “ecotechnic” for longer-term, sustainable, relatively advanced societies, after the fossil fuels have run out).

    But I think people will…either in the next generation, or in the very distant future. I do not think humans will become extinct for a very long time, even if we remain confined to Earth.

  70. OpenLuna will return people to the moon in five to seven years.

  71. Rob Hemmings says

    2029, on my 70th birthday, briefly bringing back the vision of the future I was given when I was 10 and which has been steadily corroded by idiot politicians ever since!

  72. Ed Sweet says

    To clarify the dates – the first landing with people will be between 2038 and 2056, and the moon will be occupied most of the time thereafter, albeit by only a few people for the first decades. In other words, once people return, they will stay. Only a few people for a long time, but people nonetheless.

  73. Torbjörn Larsson says

    China seems to be doing what they plan, and they plan to go back on manned round trips ~ 2020 and manned landings 2025-2030.

    US will not go back for manned landing (not necessary, only a time & resource waste for NEO and Mars missions). But seems wisely vote for manned round trips in preparation for NEOs. The NASA SLS plan have a manned round trip ~ 2020.

    Then we have the commercial sector, with announced tourist round trips already, and a vested societal interest in Moon trips, However, markets are notoriously unpredictable.

  74. Torbjörn Larsson says

    China seems to be doing what they plan, and they plan to go back on manned round trips ~ 2020 and manned landings 2025-2030.

    US will not go back for manned landing (not necessary, only a time & resource waste for NEO and Mars missions). But seems wisely vote for manned round trips in preparation for NEOs. The NASA SLS plan have a manned round trip ~ 2020.

    Then we have the commercial sector, with announced tourist round trips already, and a vested societal interest in Moon trips, However, markets are notoriously unpredictable.

  75. adamn rat says

    Sad. It seems we are not going anywhere, except maybe for a quick joyride or two.
    Been there done that? Damn, that mentality wound never have got on a ship to discover the Americas in the first place.
    No Profit? that is the reason i no longer have faith that it will be the US, except for maybe a dying puff of bravado if someone else manages to get there.
    What worries me is – if the Americans let it slip, it will be china who gets there, and we see how they treat things like the Internet,- i can see them fencing off the US flag, and saying “thats your 100 sqr meters (oh thats right American, make it 100 sqr feet). All over.
    Also – insurance civilization – I know if you grow bacteria in a petri dish, growth is fairly exponential, right up to the point where all the resources are used up, then everything collapses, very quickly.
    Just cos we been to the moon, don’t mean we shouldn’t go back, and sending people to the moon teaches us about habitat construction & unforeseen requirements, and its a bit easier to evac the crew from the moon than from mars.
    There is water there, and other useful matter. I don’t know how good an idea it is to fire billions of tons of metal out into space, decreasing the earths mass over time, but a lunar base allows to-ing and fro-ing from NEO’s, matter better sent off on missions than blundering around our orbit. You don’t learn to climb trees by strapping a belt to your feet and attempting to scale the really big ones – you start with a test climb on something lower with a few branches, and use what you learn to help climb the big smooth tree.
    Robots? yea love em, and keep em coming, they have their niche and fill it well. But sitting in a control room on earth, directing the Titan mine will teach us bugger all, and so far ALL discoveries have been made because someone had a look and said … “Oh”, when AI can do that, we will have already melded with it, and be flying our bodies to distant suns.
    We have used up the easily available resources. If society undergoes a full collapse and we lose our current level of technology (not just electric) the future generations wont be able to reach the coal, or gold, or copper. If it all falls over now, it is ovar. This is our last chance people – no try again in 40 000 yrs.

  76. 2015: humans around the Moon in a Soyuz capsule (two tourists each paying $150M, 1 Russian cosmonaut getting paid his normal salary) on a free-return trajectory (think Apollo 13 but with oxygen tanks in-tact)
    Early 2020s: American boot prints on the Moon thanks to Elon Musk.

  77. Shardul juyal says

    moon does not serve a great purpose anymore.

    i think the next time we go to moon would be to collect materials to create a Space station in upper the earth orbit

  78. Anonymous says

    In terms of actual boots on the ground (not just manned spacecraft flying around the moon):
    China first in the late 2020s
    Possibly a US/international test mission around 2030 before a trip to Mars
    Commercial visits in the 2030s (after suborbital in early 2010s, orbital in late 2010s, and Earth space stations and flights around the moon in the 2020s)

  79. HiEverybody says

    In the next five years

Leave a Reply