Return to the Moon: Outpost or sorties? By Dr. Paul D. Spudis.
In the question and answer period, he made a rather startling statement to the effect NASA was still trying to understand what “lunar return” means – that an outpost would be “expensive” and that lunar return might instead entail a series of smaller scale sortie missions, similar to the later Apollo expeditions of the early 1970’s. He added that people should remember that the “original purpose” of the VSE was to prepare to go to Mars and other destinations.
I found this exchange fascinating because it suggests that NASA, as an executing entity, still doesn’t fully understand the nature of their mission to the Moon and to the extent that it is understood, they have transformed it into something very different from what the VSE actually said and what was intended.
NASA may abandon plans for moon base
NASA will probably not build an outpost on the moon as originally planned, the agency’s acting administrator, Chris Scolese, told lawmakers on Wednesday. His comments also hinted that the agency is open to putting more emphasis on human missions to destinations like Mars or a near-Earth asteroid.
NASA has been working towards returning astronauts to the moon by 2020 and building a permanent base there. But some space analysts and advocacy groups like the Planetary Society have urged the agency to cancel plans for a permanent moon base, carry out shorter moon missions instead, and focus on getting astronauts to Mars.
Under Scolese’s predecessor, Mike Griffin, the agency held firm to its moon base plans. But the comments by Scolese, who will lead NASA until President Barack Obama nominates the next administrator, suggest a shift in the agency’s direction. He spoke to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations.