February 29, 2024

Robin McKie is the science editor of the Observer. Over the past 42 years, he has covered everything from advances in genetics and new discoveries in physics to the pressing scientific issues raised by the Covid pandemic. But one subject excites him more than any other: space – and more specifically the moon.

He tells Michael Safi how the first manned mission to the moon in 1969 captured the imagination of his generation and why today’s missions are something to be excited about.

In 1969, it seemed clear that regular lunar missions would not only be possible but likely. Yet no person has set foot on the surface of the moon since 1972.

This month there were hopes that the Vulcan Centaur rocket launched from Cape Canaveral in the US would safely release the Peregrine spacecraft onto the lunar surface. But a fuel leak means there’s no chance of that now.

Today, if all goes according to plan, Japan will land an unmanned craft on the surface of the moon. But despite decades of scientific progress since the early Apollo missions, McKie explains why landing on the moon seems as difficult as ever.

The Vulcan Centaur rocket carrying the Peregrine lunar lander lifts off from Cape Canaveral.  Photo: ULA/PA Wire

Photo: ULA/PA

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