Executive Intelligence Review


Astronaut Argues for U.S. To Return Man to the Moon, Not Diversionary Projects

June 23, 2018 (EIRNS)—President Trump has repeatedly stated that his administration’s goal is a manned return to the Moon. But what has been proposed is a Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, which would not be in orbit close to the Moon, is a small human-tended facility that can only support manned operations for a few days at a time, and does not include manned landings on the Moon. At the National Space Council meeting on June 18, Jeff Foust reports for SpaceNews, former astronaut Terry Virts said the Gateway is not an effective step in manned exploration.

“It essentially calls for building another orbital space station, a skill my colleagues and I have already demonstrated” on the International Space Station, he said. “Gateway will only slow us down, taking time and precious dollars away from the goal of returning to the lunar surface and eventually flying to Mars.”

Virts said what is needed is an Apollo-style model of stepping-stone missions to return to the Moon, which includes developing and testing the technologies needed. “Unfortunately, the recently proposed Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway does not fill that role,” he said.

At the same Space Council meeting, know-nothing NASA Administrator James Bridenstine said that “the goal is sustainability.” He also emphasized the role of international and commercial partners in the project.

Meanwhile, the European Space Agency (ESA) Council, laying out plans for future exploration programs, said one of its areas of focus will be to negotiate agreements for potential contributions to NASA’s lunar Gateway. Having no independent ability to launch crew, and a strong commitment for a manned lunar program, Europe has no choice but to jump aboard whatever program the U.S. puts forward. ESA will also continue to study manned lunar surface missions, which Gateway does not include.