Sep 2, 2015

NASA And The Politics Of Going Back To The Moon

Posted by in category: space travel

A year ahead of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it’s amazing at how small a role the American space program has played during this tempestuous summer of early primary campaigning.

It’s certain that NASA will live long and prosper no matter who’s ultimately elected as our 45th president; the American space agency has done so for 50-plus years. But even in this burgeoning age of commercial space development, political catchphrases such as “Back to the Moon and on to Mars;” “Capture an asteroid and on to Mars;” or even bypass the Moon and “Go directly to Mars” somehow still ring hollow.

On the morning of the recent booster test launch of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), I watched NASA Administrator Charles Bolden enthusiastically describe the new launch system. He noted NASA’s goal of using the new system to capture a large boulder from a near Earth asteroid and bring it back to a stable lunar orbit. This planned Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) as it’s now called would happen by the middle of the next decade. Then by the 2030s, NASA would re-purpose SLS for a manned mission to Mars. But such massive undertakings still need political will and the funding that goes with it.

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