Astrophysicist and author Ethan Siegel recently wrote an article titled “Sorry America, We are Not Going Back To The Moon“. I respect his opinion and enjoy his writing but I disagree with him on this subject.
I disagree for three reasons:
- The New Moon Race is primarily being pushed by civilian ventures, including SpaceX, Moon Express, the Moon X-Prize, Bigelow Aerospace, and many others. Their efforts are not dependent on the focus of presidential administrations that may change ever 4 to 8 years. There is a growing business case for setting up shop on the Moon.
This president is very committed to supporting manned space missions. We haven’t really had a president committed to a manned space program since LBJ. Presidents since Johnson have each half-heartedly committed to various initiatives but always failed to adequately finance them. And, as Ethan Siegels Forbes.com article mentions, each has seen their under-financed initiatives terminated by their successor. But President Trump is in the unique position of being president when several civilian technologies are maturing that will enable them to steer progress past the next inauguration. And as the programs progress and resources become established on the Moon, it will be harder and harder for subsequent presidents to pull financing for them.
Other countries won’t give us the choice of not pursuing a return to the Moon. If we don’t commit to and stick to a path of establishing a permanent presence on the Moon, then we will stand by as spectators as China and others do so. The defense aspects alone will ensure that future presidents, regardless of their position on establishing a Moon base, will stay the course as military advisors tell them abandoning existing efforts will permanently cede the high ground of space to foreign powers.
Private companies don’t agree with this plan. SpaceX has recently announced modifying its BFR vehicle to make it usable for Moon missions.