Beyond the Moon


Today the Planetary Society released a “roadmap” for space exploration, detailing what the Society thinks NASA’s priorities and programs should look like in the near future. It is the product of input from the public as well as closed-door meetings of space exploration experts. I encourage you to take a look at the pdf.

The plan outlined in the “Beyond the Moon” document is well thought out and feasible, and is notable in that it de-emphasizes human exploration of the moon. Instead, the Society favors missions to the Earth’s Lagrange points (where future telescopes will be parked) and near-Earth Objects (NEOs), followed by missions to Mars. Lunar missions are not removed from the plan, but would only happen if deemed necessary within the greater goals of the program.

At first when I read this I was against it. I want moon bases! But then I realized the strategy behind this recommendation. It puts the focus on pushing frontiers and eventually sending humans to Mars. By de-emphasizing the moon and playing up new achievements in human spaceflight, this plan would avoid the potential for getting bogged down on the moon and ending up stagnating there. Also, I think the case for sending people to NEOs is quite good: they are a potential source of resources, and they are the most likely objects to threaten Earth with a major impact. It makes sense to go check them out and prove to ourselves that we can send a mission to a NEO before the future of the Earth depends on it!

The timing of this document release is no coincidence. I suspect that as I speak, copies of the document are being sent to president-elect Obama’s transition team. The document reads as if it were written for Obama and his advisers, and I strongly suspect that’s the case. Everyone in the space community is anxiously waiting to see what an Obama administration means for NASA, and it’s quite possible that this report will have an influence. Or it might not. We just have to wait and see…

Explore posts in the same categories: Earth, Humans in Space, NASA, space policy, The Moon

3 Comments on “Beyond the Moon”

  1. valhalla Says:

    This is a STUPID plan! It’s just TPS trying to kiss up to Obama and it is NOT based on science!

    The Moon is THE logical next step in our colonization of space. You want to find out how to deal with problems from a base 240,000 miles away or 35 MILLION miles away at best, and that latter number is usually much higher.

    Carl Sagan thought the Moon was “boring” – oh yeah, now that’s the sign of a planetary scientist being objective – NOT. TPS is just a Sagan cult that doesn’t want to change anything to stick with an outdated dogma, nor do the ones in charge want to share their goodies with the public they pretend to serve.

    I am so glad Astronaut Harrison Schmidt walked away from this cult and its dogma (I see you failed to mention it, just like TPS has yet to mention this event on its Web site). Hopefully he won’ t be the last one to break ranks.

    I won’t be rejoining this cult again. If they say good riddance, then it just proves how little they really care about the public they pretend to serve and speak for. I know they will certainly miss my money, though. Well, too bad – I don’t support cults that worship guys who have been dead for over a decade.

  2. Ryan Says:

    Your argument seems to be based upon gaining spaceflight experience near earth before venturing beyond, but that’s exactly what the TPS roadmap does. It just chooses to emphasize lagrange points and near-earth asteroids.

    I don’t know what Harrison Schmidt’s feelings are, so I couldn’t write about them here. If you want to criticize TPS for following the principles of one of its founders, then that’s your right, but realize that the plan described in the report is the result of lots of meetings both with members and with experts in the space exploration community.

    Take a look at the plan and actually read it and think about it. Then if you still have problems with it, come back and post them here and I’ll be glad to try to address them. Might even make a good future post. :)

    Note that I don’t speak for TPS, I’m just a member and I think their roadmap is controversial but I can see why they structured it the way they did. Also note that I would love love love to see people on the moon again soon. I like the Constellation program. I do think that the current plan may stagnate at the moon if we ever get there, and that the TPS plan may avoid that.

  3. Tony Webb Says:

    JFK said we would land on the Moon and return safely… the USA did that!

    Imagine landing men and women on the planet Mars… the USA will do this!
    Imagine creating a new space industry to help create new jobs…. USA USA USA
    Imagine this BOLD roadmap TPS created inspires all of the nations to unite.

    I hope that President-elect Obama continues with the EFFORT to colonize Mars.

    God Bless America

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