'I believe that this nation should commit itself, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth...' - JFK [*1]
With this proclamation to a joint session of congress on May 25, 1961 President Kennedy successfully initiated the "Space Race". He established the conquest of the Moon as a national goal.
On July 20, 1969, roughly 6 months shy of JFKs goal of getting a man to the moon by the end of the decade, Neil Armstrong of the Apollo 11 took the 'One giant step for mankind' and we won the space race.
The last documented human on the moon was on December 11, 1972 when Gene Cernan of the Apollo 17 set foot on the lunar surface. Apollo 18, 19 and 20 were planned, but cancelled. NASA announced the cancellation of Apollo 20 in 1970 in favor of a new venture - Skylab.
In 1971, the complete cancellation of the Apollo program was planned after Apollo 15, however the two remaining Apollo missions were eventually kept in place, the last to be Apollo 17. All told there were six manned moon landings and a total of 12 astronauts set foot on the lunar surface during the relatively brief Apollo space program.
Some conspiracy theorists believe that there was a Apollo 20 mission, but there is no convincing argument, or smoking gun so far as evidence is concerned.
Why did we stop going to the Moon
After the Apollo 17 mission, NASA terminated all lunar expeditions, despite the fact that the next Saturn V rocket, lunar module and astronauts were already paid for and waiting for deployment.
Our exploration and exploitation of the Moon ended abruptly, before it even got off the ground. The vikings and possibly others reached American shores before Columbus and never returned, so I guess the Apollo Missions were more akin to the Lief Erikson genre than Christopher Columbus.
All the science fiction fantasies of preceding decades were just that - fantasies, humans have not built bases on the Moon, not that we are sure of anyway.
We've not used it as a stepping stone to the Galaxy. Lunar exploration has basically been relegated to NASAs never never land - forgotten and ignored by space researchers.
We have Missions going to Mars and cruising the surface, The European Space Agency has probes landing on Comets, NASA even has a vessel that left the solar system and snapped images of Pluto and its moons on the way out, yet our closest neighbor, the moon, is moot and mute.
The official explanation, that funding and public interest fizzled during the Vietnam and post Vietnam War era is plausible but not really acceptable considering our ventures in other parts of the solar system in subsequent years. In June 2009 an orbiter was sent to take images and the Chinese have done some preliminary research but nothing else has been sent within an arms length of the Moon in the past several decades.
Conspiracy theorists and UFO fanatics like to claim and fantasize that aliens warned us off the Moon. Others say it's the NAZI elite and their offspring who escaped after WW2. [*2] Some of the arguments and evidence they present is pretty phantasmagorical to say the least, some is laughable and some is actually quite plausible.
Was Somebody Already on the Moon
During NASAs missions to the Moon, Astronauts orbited and took pictures of various features on the lunar surface. Conversations of the Astronauts while on the command module were recorded, but not necessarily scripted as were their conversations with Mission Control in Houston, a fact admitted by Buzz Aldrin, the second man on the Moon.
The unscripted private conversations were taped and later transcribed after the missions, and were not released to the public for over a decade. It is unknown what, if any portions were edited out. Assuming portions were edited out, a few of the elements that slipped through lend some insight into why perhaps we shy away from further exploration of the Moon.
The Astronauts were well aware that their conversations would be heard by many of the uninitiated of the NASA elite back on Earth, so naturally they were somewhat on guard as to what they said , even when it wasn't a live feed.
Much to NASA's chagrin, the transcripts cited below did not go through a censor. They languished for years forgotten and collecting dust.
Transcripts of Apollo 14 conversations
There's a few curious verbal exchanges that took place.
LMP: That's a spectacular crater.
CDR: Did you shoot some pictures while you were over there?
CMP: No. it's just going by, we'd better get it later, there will be better times. If the damned antenna isn't in the way.
CMP: Boy, there must be nothing more desolate than to be inside some of these small craters, these conical ones.
CDR: People that live in there probably never get out.
CDR: Looking at the Moon hurts my head. I won't look at it. There's too much down there I don't understand.
CDR: Charlie, just keep ... on the book.
[Apollo 14 day 4]
LMP: Are we headed for Mendeleev?
CMP: That should be over on your right.
LMP: That's what I thought. Yes. There it is. The tracks are across the middle of it.
CMP: Are we supposed to be doing any photography at all this?
LMP: Pretty damn interesting one, too. Really an interesting one. Huh? That one ... looks like got a rugged one right out here with the central peaks.
CMP: Oh God, look at that Moltke; he's my favorite, Look at that son of a bitch. You see all those roads, triangular roads leading right past him?
Conversation segments below are once again referring to the "roads" or tracks near Moltke Crater. While it is quite possible elements of the conversation were intended to be humorous in nature - such as "ran out of money". The conversation does seem to indicate that the Astronauts either believed or knew that what they were looking at were roads.
The statement all the way up there already implies that NASA had been monitoring the progress of the road as all the way up there already applies a current tense - as if the road wasn't already "up there" at a previous point in recent time.
The statement about "mining" - well that speaks for itself. The only question remaining would be who are "They"
LMP: Boy, you can see Highway 1 running right all the way on the left all the way up there already. Right beyond Moltke, to the left there.
CDR: Just let's see where U.S. 1 stops up here. Here's the monocular if you want it.
CDR: U.S. 1 just seems to kind of die out down there.
CMP: Yes, they must have ran out of money before they finished building it.....CMP: High Sun. That's one right down there; just shows how it dominates the whole photograph. Just an extremely bright crater. Sun angle just isn't high enough for you to see it here ... Yes, they're mining it, I think.
Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 crew member in an interview years later stated...
'I happen to have been privileged enough to be in on the fact that we've been visited on this planet and the UFO phenomena is real ...'
Footnotes and References
1. JFK to Joint Session of Congress
2. Nazi Bell Project
3. Communications Transcripts:Mercury Through Apollo