NASA has struggled for decades with strategic uncertainty, and there’s nothing like a partisan transition in the White House to discombobulate everyone. There will surely be a new administrator, and new ambitions, and disfavored programs, with associated budget cuts (Earth Science is a likely target).

The Trump transition operation has yet to send a delegation to NASA headquarters. NASA’s in-house transition team is standing by, and people are getting a bit jittery. There are deadlines to meet. Everything’s in a holding pattern.

But we will float this notion: The moon is back!

Astronaut Alan Bean holds a container of lunar soil during the Apollo 12 mission. Astronaut Charles Conrad Jr., who took the photo, is reflected in the helmet visor.

Astronaut Alan Bean holds a container of lunar soil during the Apollo 12 mission. Astronaut Charles Conrad Jr., who took the photo, is reflected in the helmet visor.

With Donald Trump as president-elect, moon-colony-loving Newt Gingrich hovering close at hand, and Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, NASA may soon be told to get ready to do what it already did back in the 1960s and ’70s – put people on the moon, this time to stay.

There’s a saying: The moon is a red destination, an asteroid is a blue destination.

“It is very plausible to speculate that the new administration will insert a mission to the lunar surface, probably international in character, as a step on the way to Mars,” said John Logsdon, the dean of space policy analysts. “Politically, most of the other countries of the world have identified the moon as an interesting destination, and they don’t really have the capabilities to talk about sending people to Mars. If we want to assert international leadership, we would take a position in leading a coalition to return to the moon.”

Europe, Japan, Russia and China have all expressed interest in crewed missions to the lunar surface sometime in the next two decades.

One of the people mentioned as a potential NASA administrator is Rep. James Bridenstine, Republican from Oklahoma, who earlier this year drafted legislation he calls the American Space Renaissance Act. He’s called for a return to the moon as part of sweeping reforms at NASA.

But Republicans might prefer Scott Pace, a former NASA political appointee. In a radio interview on the Diane Rehm Show a while back, Pace advocated a return to the moon.


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