Under Trump, the Moon regains interest as possible destination

March 12, 2017 by Jean-Louis Santini
Even though President Donald Trump has said little about it, his close circle and some former NASA officials have made clear their interest in returning to the Moon

Dismissed by former US president Barack Obama as a place explorers had already seen, the Moon has once again gained interest as a potential destination under Donald Trump's presidency.

Private sector companies in particular are energized by the prospect of future space exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit, where the International Space Station circles the Earth.

Even though Trump himself has said little about the subject, his close circle and some former NASA officials have made clear their interest in returning to the Moon by way of partnerships with the private sector.

Billionaire Elon Musk, the president and chief executive of SpaceX, along with Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who also runs a rocket company called Blue Origin, have met with Trump's advisors several times since the Republican won the presidency.

"There is certainly a renewed interest in the Moon in the Trump administration," said John Logsdon, former director of the Space Policy Institute at The George Washington University.

Some of Trump's advisors worked on the Constellation program, conceived by former president George W. Bush with a goal to return humans to the Moon for the first time since the pioneering US Apollo missions of the 1960s and '70s.

Obama cancelled Constellation, deeming it too costly and repetitive in nature, opting instead to work toward new and unexplored destinations like an asteroid and, one day, Mars.

"The people advising Trump on space in a sense are still angry at that and believe it was a mistake," said Logsdon.

"If the Trump administration gets out of the current chaos and if their approach to the budget would allow it, I think within the next 12 months, we will see a major space initiative involving a public-private partnership—hopefully international partnership—focused on a return to the Moon."

Bold

Eric Stallmer, president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, which represents the private sector of spaceflight, agreed.

"I think the Trump administration wants to do something big and bold and the Moon is certainly that idea," he told AFP.

NASA's current focus on developing what will be the world's most powerful rocket, known as the Space Launch System, which will propel a new capsule, Orion, to deep space, one day carrying people around the Moon, to an asteroid or even to Mars by the 2030s.

Stallmer described this program as "very expensive."

"I think you cannot proceed with a mission to the Moon and beyond at this point anymore without a partnership with the commercial industry," he added.

Since the US-run ended in 2011, NASA has forged partnerships with private industry, including SpaceX and Orbital ATK, to resupply the International Space Station.

SpaceX plans to start sending astronauts to the orbiting outpost as early as 2018.

"I know that there is no backing down from the commercial sector, from the commercial launch companies on their desire and vision to go to the Moon and beyond. These are very exciting times," said Stallmer.

SpaceX said last month it had signed its first contract to send two space tourists on a trip around the Moon at the end of 2018, but did not give many details, including the cost or their identities.

SpaceX has also vowed to send an unmanned spacecraft on a journey to Mars in 2018, as a prelude to manned missions one day.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that its owner Bezos is working on an Amazon-like delivery service to the Moon.

The proposal has not been made public, but was circulated to the Trump team and NASA in the form of a seven-page white paper, the report said.

Moon colonies

The goal of the project is to enable "future human settlement" on the Moon.

"It is time for America to return to the Moon—this time to stay," Bezos was quoted as saying in an email to the Post.

"A permanently inhabited lunar settlement is a difficult and worthy objective. I sense a lot of people are excited about this."

Oklahoma Republican lawmaker Jim Bridenstine, who has told Trump he wants to be the next NASA administrator, has praised cooperation between the US space agency and private industry, and called for a return to Moon mission as a way to boost needed resources on Earth, such as water.

Research has shown billions of tons of water ice can be found at each lunar pole.

"Water ice on the Moon could be used to refuel satellites in orbit or perform on-orbit maintenance," he wrote in a blog post in December.

"Government and commercial satellite operators could save hundreds of millions of dollars by servicing their satellites with resources from the Moon rather than disposing of, and replacing, their expensive investments."

This could translate into lower bills for users of satellite internet, television and radio services, he said.

The lunar soil is also believed to be rich in rare Earth minerals that are widely used in electronic devices.

The Google Lunar XPrize Foundation is also in on the action, recently announcing its five finalists for a $20 million award to the first team to land a robot on the Moon.

Explore further: SpaceX says it will fly 2 people to moon next year (Update)

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19 comments

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rderkis
1 / 5 (5) Mar 12, 2017
"I think the Trump administration wants to do something big and bold and the Moon is certainly that idea," he told AFP.


Like I said "America can't be great again unless we lead the world in science and technology."
President Trump is much better advised than me, so you can bet he knows it to.
smithpd1
3 / 5 (8) Mar 12, 2017
Scientist are aware that manned missions are much less efficient than robotic missions for conducting science. What is the reason for them, then? I can think of two: (1) bragging rights -- demonstrate to non-scientists that "Trump is great"; (2) a shell game to get rid of climate science. Both of these are bad reasons. NASA will agree to it because they don't want to lose *all* of their people.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.7 / 5 (7) Mar 12, 2017
Scientist are aware that manned missions are much less efficient than robotic missions for conducting science
Theyre not. Two scientists on mars for 2 weeks could do more science than all the robotic missions sent there to date.

Spread your political bullshit somewhere else.
rderkis
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 12, 2017
What is the reason?

George Mallory said it best "Because it's there!" I guess that reason slipped your hate filled mind. :-)
smithpd1
3.2 / 5 (9) Mar 12, 2017
"political bullshit"
"hate filled mind"

I thought by its name and charter that this site might be attended by physicists. Apparently I was wrong.

Robots are indeed more cost effective and safer for science than humans. Human space exploration is of emotional value.

My cynical remarks about Trump are not only well deserved but based on science. Trump and science-denying Republicans want to drastically reduce NASA's earth sciences program in favor of space travel, mainly to eliminate climate science research. If any of you were scientists, you would understand why that is misguided.
rderkis
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 13, 2017
"attended by physicists. Apparently I was wrong."


You think your visiting a site, where the other commenters are better than you?
Nope we are all nobody(s) just like you.
The only difference is not all of us are hate filled like you.
You mentioned emotions, as if emotions were a bad thing Mr. Spock :-)

smithpd1
3.5 / 5 (11) Mar 13, 2017
"hate filled like you"

Look to yourself. The only way you could reach that conclusion from my words is that you are both a Trump supporter and a climate science denier. Neither are appropriate on a science site. Don't get your knickers in a twist.
MarsBars
4.4 / 5 (7) Mar 13, 2017
I thought by its name and charter that this site might be attended by physicists. Apparently I was wrong.

Hello smithpd1, and welcome to the monkey cage known as phys.org commenting. Like many newcomers you expected a high standard of discourse and debate. That does happen to some extent, but name-calling and insults are far more common. This science site attracts climate science deniers, black hole deniers, Electric Universe acolytes, creationists, racists, etc. Many users totally ignore the Comments guidelines, and moderation only occurs when a post is reported. If you mouseover (hover) on a comment you will see "Ignore user", "Quote", and "Report" below it. "Ignore user" will blank out all comments by that user; "Quote" will place the comment's text into the 'Add your comment:' box; "Report" will wake up a moderator to review the reported comment.
smithpd1
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 13, 2017
Hello smithpd1, and welcome to the monkey cage known as phys.org commenting.

Thanks, MarsBars!

entrance
5 / 5 (4) Mar 13, 2017
First of all: i am from Austria, i don't care about Trump.

I think, we should try to build a small base on Moon. The reasons are:

1) Some day we should try to conquer space and send people to other planets. But we still have to learn a lot. Moon seems to be a good place to do research. Stephen Hawking and some other people are of the opinion, that we will soon be forced to found colonies in space.

2) Moon is much nearer than Mars. If problems occure, politicans and scientists can react much faster. And of course everything would be much cheaper.

3) Some day a Moon base could become a staging area for journeys into deep space. People, proviant and fuel could be collected there, before the journey starts. And the start would be very easy, because Moon has a low gravity.
antialias_physorg
2.6 / 5 (5) Mar 13, 2017
"I think the Trump administration wants to do something big and bold

They've already got their wall. Isn't that big and bold (and dumb) enough? Americans seem to dig 'dumb'.

Moon is much nearer than Mars. If problems occure, politicans and scientists can react much faster.

For emergencies the Moon is - for all intents and purposes - as far away as Mars. No one is going to slap together a Moon rocket on a few hours (or days) notice to stage a rescue OP. That's only in Hollywood movies. Real life doesn't work that way.

If we really want a goal for human spaceflight then Mars or an asteroid would be it. For anything else (i.e. science) probes and robots do just fine (and at a fraction of the cost).
rderkis
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 13, 2017
Labeling people he does not agree with like a true scientist?

smithpd1 -- Trump supporter and a climate science denier.


As usual just hate out of you. Best way to show your hate is to start labeling people that have different opinions than you, right> :-)

Labelers go to my ignore list. And unlike a lot of children on here, I do ignore them.
smithpd1
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 13, 2017
I do ignore them.

Please start now!
Zzzzzzzz
3 / 5 (2) Mar 13, 2017
This is not a science article. This is an apologetic attempt at making an unrepentant confessed felony sex offender normal, or something more than normal. Anyone with even the slightest shred of intelligence knows beyond a doubt that you will always know when Trump is lying - his lips are moving. And his lips never seem to stop.
When I read the headline that Trump has been beaten to death, I will celebrate. After recovering from that extensive celebration, I will seriously consider devoting my remaining time to carving the likeness of that True American Hero onto the face of Mount Rushmore. Imagine my inner conflict when it is revealed that Pence did it......
geokstr
1 / 5 (2) Mar 17, 2017
"This is an apologetic attempt at making an unrepentant confessed felony sex offender normal, or something more than normal."

That's already been done by you Marxists and your fellow travelers in the media, see: Clinton, BJ - forced to surrender his law license for lying under oath trying to win a civil suit for sexual harassment (which he later paid $800,000 to settle). He's also been credibly accused of forcible rape. But he's for abortion on demand up until just before it takes its first breath, so it's cool.

As for lying, Obama won "Lie of the Year" from a leftwing "fact checker" for his "if you like your doctor..." in dozens of public speeches while well aware he was lying. He still peppers his speeches with proven lies and debunked "statistics".

Marxists don't believe in principles, honor, ethics, honesty, laws or facts. If it weren't for double standards, you wouldn't have any at all, would you?
gkam
Mar 17, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
gkam
Mar 17, 2017
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ShotmanMaslo
not rated yet Mar 21, 2017
For emergencies the Moon is - for all intents and purposes - as far away as Mars. No one is going to slap together a Moon rocket on a few hours (or days) notice to stage a rescue OP.


Not true at all. Moon is only several days away and who says a Moon rocket cannot be ready quickly? SpaceX is aiming for a weekly launch schedule in foreseeable future. A rescue time of 1-2 weeks is certainly possible.

Moon is by far the best destination to develop in situ resource utilization, which is very important for living in space long term.

Also, when it comes to science, humans >> robots. The amount of science that can be done by a small manned base will dwarf anything robots can do. Also, science is not the only goal of NASA, developing manned spaceflight technology is arguably even more important one.
szore88
not rated yet Mar 21, 2017
Which "chaos" is he referring to? The only "chaos" is see is at the DNC.

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