Back in April, NASA accepted a challenge set by US President Donald Trump to return humans to the moon in just five years.
Speaking at the time, Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, said: “We’ve been given an ambitious and exciting goal. History has proven when we’re given a task by the president, along with the resources and the tools, we can deliver.
“We are committed to making this happen. We have the people to achieve it. Now, we just need bipartisan support and the resources to get this done.”
But while NASA is optimistic about meeting this 2024 deadline, not everyone is so convinced.
Speaking to Mirror Online, James Burke, the science broadcaster who led the BBC ’s coverage of the Apollo 11 mission back in 1969, said he would be ‘surprised’ if NASA sent humans back to the moon at all.
He said: “I would be very surprised if we go back to the moon, that is to say Europe or the USA, until it becomes very much cheaper.
“NASA wants the money to keep coming in, but I get the impression that there’s little excitement to go back.”
However, while Mr Burke isn’t convinced that NASA will return to the moon, he believes that China’s National Space Administration could be the next to send humans to the lunar surface – and even to Mars.
He said: “Where we will see action is China. I think they’ll do something with the moon, and they’ll land on Mars. They’ll beat the US to it.”
Mr Burke suggests that a lack of funding could hold NASA back from getting humans on the Mars – which it aims to do in the 2030s.
He added: “There’s a lot of talk about building a big spacecraft to go to Mars.
“But to go to Mars you have to take a huge amount of stuff, such as food and water etc. We don’t have a rocket remotely big enough to do that. That’s more money than the US will want to spend.
“China will have humans on Mars in the next 10 years. NASA will never.”
James Burke narrates the Apollo 11 Moon Landing 50th Anniversary Collection out now on DVD .