“NASA will not take the lead on a human lunar mission,” he said. “NASA is not going to the Moon with a human as a primary project probably in my lifetime. And the reason is, we can only do so many things.” Instead, he said the focus would remain on human missions to asteroids and to Mars. “We intend to do that, and we think it can be done.”
“I don’t know how to say it any more plainly,” he concluded. “NASA does not have a human lunar mission in its portfolio and we are not planning for one.” He warned that if the next administration tries to change course again back to the Moon, “it means we are probably, in our lifetime, in the lifetime of everybody sitting in this room, we are probably never again going to see Americans on the Moon, on Mars, near an asteroid, or anywhere. We cannot continue to change the course of human exploration.”
I especially loved his last sentence - we cannot continue to change the course of human exploration - which is exactly what was done by the administration he represents. So now we will go to asteroids using tax dollars, we will gather data, we, supposedly, will go to Mars. I'm not sure how we will do all those things since we can't yet send people to the Moon, we don't know how to catch an asteroid, move it or process it. I'm trying to imagine why we would send astronauts to an asteroid. What will we do when we get there - orbit? Very difficult and dangerous from an orbital mechanics point of view. Will the astronauts walk around on a rock several miles long, a rock that is likely unstable? Maybe we will capture it and bring it to orbit the Earth, where we will process it. Really?
All of this is instead of going to the Moon where we can learn all we need to in order to become a space faring civilization, one that can build habitats on the Moon and then on Mars, and then beyond.
I certainly hope that the entrepreneurs can do some of this. But they won't be able to do the large visionary things because no one has enough money to fund a lunar colony. Let's remember, most of the space entrepreneurs need government contracts. Most of the technology is derived from federally funded projects over many, many decades. And that is fine, as long as the government keeps creating the infrastructure that we need. Space activity pays for itself in so many ways.