There has been much activity in the news by those who have been promoting various ideas on paths to a manned presence on Mars. In some ways the approaches are all similar, except for one where volunteers are sought for a one-way trip to Mars with enough supplies for a sufficient amount of time to become self-sufficient ... or, well, that's too bad, but it was a good try.

The initiative is by a Dutch firm and is called Mars One, with the goal of people to Mars by 2022.

This debate both inside and outside the space community has been raging for decades, and it has reputable people on both sides of the argument. For a while, when the Bush Vision of 2004 for a permanent return to the Moon was still in play, the argument was over, the Moon won. Now, with no real vision for NASA regarding manned space flight and settlement, the embers are heating up again. Certainly, for many, Mars is a more exotic target than the Moon.

The Moon to some shallow thinkers has been reduced to the bumper sticker - "The Moon, Been There Done That".

The reason the argument was settled by 2004 was not because government funds were rolling into NASA, although that helped, it was because the engineering and science, the physiology and psychology, were squarely on the side of manned missions to the Moon. For so many reasons, sending people back to the Moon was, and is, the only thing that makes sense from the engineering perspective, and from the medical view that the people we send have to survive and thrive.

Another point to remember, while Mars may be terraformed in the future to be more Earthlike, today, and for the next century or two, both the Moon and Mars are very inhospitable to human life. The advantage the Moon has over Mars is that is is a few days' travel from Earth, while Mars is 9-12 months travel time. Solar power on the Moon makes sense. There are a long list of resources on the Moon we can use to build an industrial infrastructure.

So it's the Moon, clearly. And then Mars.