In a Dec. 29 blog post titled, Why the Moon Matters, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) calls for the United States to focus on the economic and strategic benefits of the moon.
Bridenstine is reported to be a leading candidate for the position of NASA administrator in the Trump Administration. The space agency is focused on sending astronauts to Mars in the 2030’s. However, the new administration might refocus NASA on returning astronauts to the moon.
Here’s an excerpt from the blog post.
Utilizing propellant and materials on the Moon is also the first step for manned missions deeper into our solar system. A permanent human presence on other celestial bodies requires in situ resource utilization. The Moon, with its three-day emergency journey back to Earth, represents the best place to learn, train, and develop the necessary technologies and techniques for in situ resource utilization and an eventual long term human presence on Mars. Fortunately, the Space Launch System and Orion are close to being developed and will start testing in 2018. This system, with a commercial lander, could quickly place machines and robots on the moon to begin the cis-lunar economy. With the right presidential guidance, humans could return in short order as well…this time, to stay.
There are other economic benefits to a permanent presence on the moon. We should pioneer the utilization of lunar oxides for in situ additive manufacturing (3-D printing) to sustain and develop lunar operations. If economical, we should pioneer the extraction of highly valuable platinum group metals and the ability to transport them back to earth. The United States government should play a part in retiring risk for these endeavors with the intent to privatize and empower commercial companies to sustain the cis-lunar economy. This could fundamentally alter the economic balance of power on Earth.
As the cis-lunar economy develops, competition for locations on the Moon (the poles) and lunar resources is inevitable. The Chinese currently have landers and rovers on the Moon. The United States does not. Very soon, the Chinese will be the first of humanity to explore the far side of the Moon and place robots at the poles. As my friend Congressman Bill Posey says, “They are not going there to collect rocks.”
The first launch of the Space Launch System is less than two years away. In 2021, we will use the Orion capsule to send astronauts beyond low Earth orbit for the first time since the 1970s. Commercial launch vehicles are maturing and commercial deep space habitats are currently in development. A renewed focus on utilizing the Moon can help further these advancements. The choices we make now can forever make America the preeminent spacefaring nation.
Bridenstine also wrote a blog post on Nov. 7 titled, This is Our Sputnik Moment, that covered a lot of the same material. It is worth a look as well.