The battle over Trump’s Moon effort exposes Washington’s power-hungry bureaucracy


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This analysis by Eric Berger at Ars Technica of the political situation surrounding SLS, Orion, Gateway, and the Trump administration’s desire to quickly get back to the Moon is quite cogent and worth reading in full. It suggests that it will be very difficult for Trump to get his lunar landing, for several reasons. First, the Democrats in the House will likely not fund it. Second, because to get it done by 2024 will likely require switching to private rockets, and that action will be opposed by Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama). And third because there are factions in the NASA bureaucracy that are in love with SLS and Gateway and will work to save it.

This quote is most telling:

At NASA headquarters, [human spaceflight chief Bill] Gerstenmaier and this team that plays a central role in developing policy for the space agency are likely content to play a waiting game. Without an increased budget he can continue to spend money on developing the SLS rocket for some future launch date and begin procuring elements of the Lunar Gateway. He can make some small investments in a lunar lander but doesn’t have to commit to its development before the end of next year, which may bring a new president and new priorities.

In other words, Bill Gerstenmaier, an unelected bureaucrat at NASA, has more power to determine U.S. space policy than elected lawmakers.

I ask, how does Gerstenmaier have the right to “develop policy for the space agency?” What legislative authority gives him the right to “play a waiting game” while continuing to “spend money on developing the SLS rocket… and procuring elements of Lunar Gateway?” These are policy decisions that belong solely to Congress and the President, not some hired government bureaucrat.

In a sense this story is only another reflection of the entire Russian collusion scandal. Hired government officials with no legal authority decide that they really know best, and this hubris allows them to supplant the decisions of lawmakers, and even attempt to overthrow them if necessary.

I reluctantly predicted this behavior back in June 2016 when I visited Washington and wrote this essay: The think tank culture of Washington:

What will this elite community do should Trump win the presidency and start demanding that they do things differently? Will they recognize that we are a democracy and work with him, the elected choice of the American people, or will they resist because he isn’t the politician they wanted and wants to institute policies they disagree with?

…I fear that the culture of Washington is becoming increasingly hostile to and insulated against the choices of the American electorate. I fear that they will one day soon decide to team up with the politicians they like to use the concentrated power we have given them in Washington to reject those choices, even to the extent of tossing out the Constitution and the democratic legal system that made the United States once the freest and wealthiest nation in the history of the human race.

I hope I am wrong. I pray that I am wrong. I think we might very well find out in the coming year.

Sadly, what we have learned in the past three years is that this Washington think tank culture is quite willing to overthrow the Constitution and the law, to get what they want. The situation at NASA only gives us another example of this terrible reality.

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34 comments

  • Dick Eagleson

    I’ve thought for awhile that Gerst needs to go. He’s always described as “an engineer’s engineer,” but I fail to see much basis for this. He’s certainly no managerial superstar. He’s had his current job for 15 years during which he’s mainly overseen Constellation, which failed, and SLS-Orion which is in the process of failing.

  • Edward

    A couple of weeks ago, mkent wrote: “Why is everyone so down on the Gateway? It’s not in a good orbit, but other than that, it’s the start of a good cislunar architecture that facilitates the economical exploration of the moon, Mars, and asteroids. Fix the orbit and make sure it’s expandable, and it’ll be good.
    https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/points-of-information/independent-study-finds-nasas-mars-plans-infeasible/#comment-1066596

    I gave an answer, but Robert Zubrin has a more thoughtful reason to be so down on Gateway, there is a better way to go to the Moon until we know what we want out of a CisLunar space station:
    https://spacenews.com/op-ed-lunar-gateway-or-moon-direct/

    In short, in return for delaying our arrival on the moon by eight years and spending $30 billion to build the Gateway, NASA will enable a lunar base program costing $2.5 billion per flight instead of $65 million per flight, and will be less safe and far less useful than would readily be possible if we had no Gateway at all!

    Since the NASA plan is to use Gateway as a way point for all lunar missions, Zubrin notes:

    Yet the problem with NASA’s planned Lunar Orbit Tollbooth (to use more accurate terminology) is much bigger than the waste of decades of time and tens of billions of dollars and the harmful distortions it would impose on subsequent mission planning. The deeper problem is the form of thinking it represents. NASA’s astronomy and robotic planetary exploration programs have achieved epic accomplishments because they are purpose-driven. In contrast, since the end of Apollo, NASA’s human spaceflight program has been purpose-free, or to put the matter less charitably, vendor-driven. As a result, its accomplishments have been negligible.

    The inevitable conclusion:

    The science programs spend money to do things. The human spaceflight program does things to spend money.

    Dick Eagleson is probably right: Bill Gerstenmaier should be replaced by someone willing to spend money to do things, to accomplish goals. We have had enough empire building and power grabbing, what we need now is accomplishment.

    NASA is in a space race, but it is not with the Soviets or Russians, and it is not with the Chinese. It is with the US NewSpace industry, which is in the business of spending money to do things, things that make money here on Earth. Fortunately, NewSpace companies seem to be free to accomplish the great things in space that they want done. This seems to include going back to the Moon and going on to Mars. They may even be in a race among themselves as to which body will be reached and explored first.

    Instead of being uselessly confined to a can in lunar orbit, America’s astronauts can be the explorers of new worlds. As we did in the 1960s, we can once again astound the world with what free people can do. With the approach of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing reminding us of the sort of things we as a nation once accomplished, we should resolve to do no less.

  • Gary

    Prediction of capitalism in space:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Sold_the_Moon

    I read this story in the early 1960s when a moon landing was still a dream.

  • Brett Bellmore

    While it is extremely unlikely that Trump will be able to get his return to the Moon on the schedule he wants through NASA, there’s another option: Kickstarter!

    I’m serious: While a Moon base would be orders of magnitude larger than any previous Kickstarter effort, with the public backing of a President it might very well be feasible.

    And Trump might find achieving his Moon ambitions this way ideologically desirable, demonstrating the power of private action and enterprise to do what government can’t/won’t.

  • Georg Felis

    I wonder if commercial space exploration would benefit by a ‘ramp’ of projects, somewhat of an ODA loop of lunar exploration. First dropping a series of practice single-purpose landers on the surface by using smaller boosters, then orbiting a L-4 or L-5 ‘relay’ satellite to pipe video and data back to Earth for future missions, then a backup satellite in the other L-point, then a series of straightforward landers with rovers (using the satellites to relay their video back) for soil sampling, then following that up with a sampling mission with a return stage to lug a few kilos of moon-dirt back to earth (sold in 1gram packets on Ebay), then a much larger return mission with a big scoop to return a half-ton or so (line up the universities to get their half-kilo cans of dirt for research). By the time humans land, the process will have all the bugs beaten out of it (yeah, I know, there’s always one more bug)

  • KV

    Isn’t NASA too busy with Muslim outreach and global warming to worry about space travel? Even their gift shop/museum in Houston was disappointing and overpriced. Time to privatise.

  • George Turner

    One problem with the way they’re approaching the Lunar Gateway is that they are putting the cart before the horse. The Lunar Gateway is akin to a Mini-Mart, supplying fuel, drinks, and snacks. Whenever anyone in business is deciding where to built a new Mini-Mart, they look at areas with lots of traffic that are only sparsely served, which should therefore have a big potential customer base.

    But Instead, NASA has decided on a site with no existing traffic and no existing customers. “If you build it, they will come” gave us a movie about a baseball diamond in the middle of an empty corn field, but it depended on fans watching imaginary games with non-existent players. In this case, the Mini-Mart executive is arguing that there’s no traffic at Latitude-Longitude Iowa because there’s no gas station nearby, and that people would flock to the area once the gas station goes up. In business, that’s a recipe for bankruptcy because they’d be building expensive infrastructure without an established or committed customer base.

    NASA’s position requires the belief that there’s no current lunar customers because there’s no orbital Mini-Mart, which then requires one of two supporting arguments to be true. One is that nobody can get to the moon and back without the Mini-Mart, which is demonstrably false (ref Apollo et al, 1969).

    The other belief is that it’s simply too expensive for customers to get to the moon without the Mini-Mart, and that the Mini-Mart will bend the cost curve on the missions, making them newly affordable, and so commerce and traffic will expand into the newly opened niche. But they haven’t established the truth of that proposition either. Orbital math says that stopping at the Mini-Mart doesn’t reduce the required delta V for a mission, it increases it. “Ah, but the Mini-Mart sells gas!” you say. Yes, but delivering the gas to the Mini-Mart still requires burning more fuel that just going to the moon directly, because all the fuel is coming from Earth. To make that second proposition true they’d have to be getting the fuel from a cheaper source, and the only candidate for that is an existing lunar infrastructure. The business case for the Mini-Mart only works after that infrastructure is up and running, and until then , the program is just building a baseball diamond in the middle of an Iowa cornfield.

  • mike shupp

    My suspicion is NASA has a batch of high level Civil Service and SES troops like Gerstenmaier who have been with the agency for many years, trying to do their best for NASA and keep its capabilities alive, watching Administrators and Senators and Presidents come and go, as slogans such as “Faster, Better, Cheaper” and “Back to the Moon” fly overhead and into oblivion. I don’t think they’re deliberately trying to perpetuate a do nothing-status quo culture; I think they’ve convinced themselves that loudly proclaimed programs all fade into nothing after a couple of years and that the only way NASA can really make progress is with slow mincing steps that neither politicians nor the public will notice.

    I don’t when this started, but I think the tradition was well established when George H. H. Bush proposed a bigger space program (the Space Exploration Initiative) back in 1989 and NASA top loaded it with programs that would have brought the cost to 400 billion bucks, virtually guaranteeing that Congress would turn down the idea, while keeping smaller but near-term projects like Space Station Freedom going.

    Note that I am not singing and dancing about a wonderful idea this is.

  • John P McMahon

    The Space Shuttle was an Earth orbit delivery vehicle that could also build things in space. It was going to build places for humanity’s off world presence besides the five person group of cans that is up there now. The Shuttle was going to put up that Space Odyssey stuff we were promised, but of course that is all over. Trying to put more people on the Moon seems ridiculous in light of the fact that so very few, only a little over 500 since Yuri G., have been in orbit.

  • Edward

    George Turner wrote: “NASA’s position requires the belief that there’s no current lunar customers because there’s no orbital Mini-Mart, which then requires one of two supporting arguments to be true.

    I think that NASA is working to a third belief, which they think is true. NASA would be its own “Mini-Mart” Gateway customer, and it needs no other customers. This is the beauty of being a government operation; you don’t need actual customers, just taxpayers.

    Unfortunately, NASA’s soon-to-be existing infrastructure, SLS and Orion, are not up to the task of making Gateway worth the expense, effort, resources, and distraction from useful goals, ones that would benefit the taxpayer more.

    An advantage of commercial space companies choosing and funding their own projects, products, and services is that We the Taxpayers are not doing the funding. Another advantage is that the choices of projects, products, and services is far more likely to be useful to us, because the commercial space companies need to make money by selling to us or to those we buy from. Yet another advantage is that commercial space companies won’t go by guess and by gosh but will wait until they can determine an orbit in which a lunar servicing space station/laboratory/habitat makes most sense, even if the location is not lunar orbit but a Lagrange point or other useful location.

    But the point is, NASA is subject to politics and power-hungry bureaucrats who “decide that they really know best,” at least what’s best for themselves. This means that we taxpayers have less say in the matter than the US Constitution had originally intended.

    Oh, that’s right. The Constitution had originally intended that we not be taxpayers (Article 1, Section 9, Paragraph 4).

    John P McMahon wrote: “Trying to put more people on the Moon seems ridiculous in light of the fact that so very few, only a little over 500 since Yuri G., have been in orbit.

    It may seem ridiculous, but we have to do it sometime, and forty years ago we had expected to go back long before that many people had been in space. We know how to do it, all we need is the will to do it, and I think we have that with our commercial space companies.

    The Shuttle was disappointing; I hope commercial space is disappointing, also.

  • Edward

    NOT disappointing, also. That was supposed to be NOT disappointing.

  • wodun

    Zubrin is always so sensational and the just waves his hands to explain away serious development issues. We don’t need a single purpose. We need purposes. There are many ways to get back to the Moon. The real challenge is not in getting back or beating the Chinese but what we do when we get there.

    The concept of we is an important one. Yes, the actions of government can count as a we but so do the actions of all the contractors and service providers. The latter we is what makes what NASA wants to do possible, along with a healthy economy. But that latter we are also pursuing what they want to do, with serving NASA as being a part of that.

    We need many purposes and many individuals and groups that want to pursue those purposes. A cislunar economy can no more be managed and planned than an Earth economy. A good thing for NASA to do is enable these individuals and groups to do what they want and let the future reveal itself to us.

    To some extent, this is what the alternate track NASA is on seeks to do. Most of the alternatives to SLS envision some other government program that will simply take the infrastructure that was going to be in space and replace it with something comparable on the lunar surface without changing the nature of the infrastructure in any fundamental way.

    There is always this technological min/maxing when what is needed is a paradigm change in how people view space based activities and the government’s role in space.

  • George Turner

    Wodun, this morning I thought of an entirely new purpose for going to the moon.

    The bottom of Shackleton crater at the south lunar pole is about 88 degrees Kelvin, only slightly warmer than liquid nitrogen. Some are focused on exploring there to find recoverable water from comets, but I have a different idea.

    Sell burial plots.

    Not only will you be interred in sacred lunar soil with a black monolith headstone, but your loved ones and descendants will forever be able to look up at you, comforted that you rest peacefully on the moon. as it shines down upon them. And you’ll be resting there at 88 degrees Kelvin, so we might bring you back later, even centuries later, and without the weirdness and yearly expense of being stored in a cryogenic freezer in some warehouse behind a strip mall.

    All we need is a vehicle capable of lunar landings, a robot digger, and some pallbearers in space suits. The pallbearers will of course being paying a lot of money for the lunar adventure that goes along with the solemn burial services, along with any family members who want to take the trip, probably arranged by the deceased as part of his legacy to his loved ones.

    Perhaps get some Apollo astronauts to sign up, and then wait for the flood gates to open.

  • Edward

    wodun,
    I’m not sure what “serious development issues” need to be hand waved away. We have done everything that Zubrin mentions, but some of them have not been done on the Moon. Zubrin, in the Space News op-ed that I linked, mentions multiple purposes for going back to the Moon.

    First, he suggests using lunar water ice as a propellant, even for exploring the rest of the Moon (exploration is purpose two); third, detailed photography of the surface, especially of the area around the lunar base.

    In addition, the creation of “a virtual reality experience that will allow millions of members of the public to participate vicariously in the missions” should help generate interest in space in ways similar to the recent Pluto, comet, and asteroid missions; adding experience in space operations and lunar operations, to the point where “water acquisition and propellant manufacture operations will have been reduced to practice so that they can be done in a fully automated fashion;” creating an infrastructure on the Moon, “the LEV can be refueled at the base propellant depot for sortie flights to distant locations;” creating an infrastructure not only on the Moon but in orbit, such as “several used LEVs, available, floating in Earth orbit;” and reducing the cost of getting to the Moon, “the third phase missions can be done simply by using a medium-lift Falcon 9, (or Blue Origin New Glenn or United Launch Alliance Vulcan) to lift the crew to orbit in a capsule, after which they transfer to a LEV along with 7.5 tons of refueling propellant, and then take flight to the moon,” where a Falcon 9 costs $65 million, or less; increasing the base’s capabilities, “With more gear arriving on every mission, the base capabilities will rapidly increase,” population, “its supportable population will grow,” and stays on the Moon, “mission durations will expand from weeks to months, or even years.

    I count eight purposes, so far, in that one essay.

    A final purpose from the Zubrin essay: “As this [expansion] occurs, the base will transition from a local activity to a center supporting a vigorous globe-spanning program of lunar exploration,” which is really what we have wanted all along.

    Other people have suggested other purposes for going to the Moon, including radio astronomy on the far side, protected from virtually all human radio frequency emissions; and mining lunar material to build structures in space, such as solar power plants for beaming electrical power to Earth.

    Paul Spudis had several reasons for going back to the Moon, too. His reasons boil down to three categories: it is close, it is interesting, and it is useful.
    http://www.spudislunarresources.com/

    Here is a more philosophical reason from Spudis:
    https://www.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/lunar-anthropic-principle-180968049/
    This quote comes from Krafft Ehricke, … ‘If God wanted man to become a spacefaring species, He would have given man a Moon.‘ Ehricke’s quote distills down to its essence the truth about the Moon’s utility—its singular value in developing new spaceflight capabilities and our ability to travel throughout space. I’m tempted to call Ehricke’s statement ‘the lunar anthropic principle.’” [emphasis mine]

    I once noted a value of manned exploration over robotic exploration:
    https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/essays-and-commentaries/lobbying-for-the-moon/#comment-954066
    The astronauts on the Moon did far better in exploring than robots could. They were able to recognize it when they found what they came for: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6MEh7qVsbM (3 minutes)

    But Robert once gave another good reason just to go back to the Moon:
    https://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/essays-and-commentaries/lobbying-for-the-moon/#comment-954068
    Edward: The clip you provided of the Apollo 15 astronauts working on the Moon, gathering one of the most important rock samples brought back during all the lunar landings, illustrated another basic reason for sending humans. It is thrilling to watch. These were human beings, walking on the Moon. If that fact doesn’t send chills of wonder up your spine than you are dead to what makes living worthwhile. We need to do it again, simply because it is is wonderful thing to do.” [emphasis mine]

  • Richard M

    Hello Bob,

    “In other words, Bill Gerstenmaier, an unelected bureaucrat at NASA, has more power to determine U.S. space policy than elected lawmakers.”

    I deeply share the frustration, and I have specific concerns about Gerst (which I shared the other day at Rand’s combox, in fact), but I think we do need to be fair here: Congress REQUIRES NASA to build the SLS and the Orion. It REQUIRES NASA to spend the money to do so, both through the 2010 Space Act, and through appropriations in this fiscal year. Gerst can’t suddenly decided to just shut down SLS, or spend all of the money appropriated for it on, say, commercial lunar lander development contracts.

    The problem, in fact, is that our elected lawmakers have the power, and choose to exercise that power, year after year, to feather their congressional districts with programs that keep standing workforces employed there developing hardware that will never fly, or if it does fly, won’t be operable for NASA in any remotely affordable manner. I am not suggesting that this power should be yanked away – the Constitution has something to say here – but the way in which they do so continues to cripple our ability to explore and economically exploit outer space.

  • Richard M

    Mike writes:

    “My suspicion is NASA has a batch of high level Civil Service and SES troops like Gerstenmaier who have been with the agency for many years, trying to do their best for NASA and keep its capabilities alive, watching Administrators and Senators and Presidents come and go, as slogans such as “Faster, Better, Cheaper” and “Back to the Moon” fly overhead and into oblivion. I don’t think they’re deliberately trying to perpetuate a do nothing-status quo culture; I think they’ve convinced themselves that loudly proclaimed programs all fade into nothing after a couple of years and that the only way NASA can really make progress is with slow mincing steps that neither politicians nor the public will notice.”

    I think this is a very insightful point.

    It’s not even so much a defense of Gerstenmeier as it as a fair attempt to understand his mindset, and how it developed.

    Gerst has been with NASA for 42 years, which is staggering to think about. How many initiatives and programs has he seen rise and fall, splash into the headlines and crash and burn, in that time?

    I singled out one line by Eric Berger in his article to Rand: “[Gerstenmeier] views a lunar space station as a less-risky goal that would allow for more international partnerships and build on NASA’s experience with the International Space Station.” Rand replied that what Gerst might have in mind is not so much *mission* risk as *program* risk. (I actually suspect it’s *both* kinds of risk.) That a mini-space station in lunar orbit, serviced by SLS/Orion and some mix of commercial vehicles, co-operated with other national space agencies, would be something very incremental, technically feasible, and much more political survivable as opposing administrations and congresses came and went, than more ambitious initiatives like, well, the Trump Administration’s current one.

    I can understand that attitude, at any rate. But the problem is, the political and technical feasibility of the program can’t be the end of the analysis. We have to ask: What exactly is it that a Gateway gradually built in the late 2020’s will actually *do* that will justify the risk and expense of sending human beings there every year, a quarter million miles away? What can it do that has not already been done in some form on ISS? Is it just to use astronauts as deep space radiation guinea pigs? To teleoperate rovers that are only 1.3 light seconds from Earth to begin with?

    Apollo was an insanely expensive and extremely risky project which sent 30 human beings into space (and 24 into deep space), but it could justify the costs and high risks with the objective of actually exploring another world, something which had never been done before. What we have with Gateway/SLS is simply a very underwhelming technological demonstration project which happens to employ lots of people in the right places. If that is all we’re about, we might as well just stick to robotic exploration. I’d rather spend the money sending helicopter drones to Titan.

  • gbaikie

    –Edward
    May 2, 2019 at 5:04 pm
    George Turner wrote: “NASA’s position requires the belief that there’s no current lunar customers because there’s no orbital Mini-Mart, which then requires one of two supporting arguments to be true.”

    I think that NASA is working to a third belief, which they think is true. NASA would be its own “Mini-Mart” Gateway customer, and it needs no other customers. This is the beauty of being a government operation; you don’t need actual customers, just taxpayers.–

    Yes, I think that is correct.
    And it’s sort of right. But it also makes NASA rather unimportant.
    And NASA not following it’s charter.
    And hard to argue why we should fund NASA.
    And why NASA does not get enough funding.

    NASA should looking up “new markets” in Space.
    There is the one market of the global satellite market.
    And I don’t think NASA would currently exist without this very important market.
    Or space is important because there is the satellite market.
    It also be important due security needs related satellite in Earth orbit, but the military is but
    one player in the global satellite market.
    Though without global satellite market, military satellites would cost more than they do- and be less capable [which might be considered a plus by US military, because if satellites were more expensive “the enemies” would have less satellites].

    I think if NASA explore the Moon to determine where and if lunar water might be mineable, NASA would be doing something important.
    And it would be more important the more definitive this could be determined.
    It would be “exciting” if NASA found “lots” of lunar water, but that not really what I mean, what I mean is lowering the uncertainity regarding lunar water on Moon.
    If there is huge amount water on the Moon, in sense it would not say good things about NASA. One could ask how could miss it. Why didn’t know decades ago.
    But if NASA can explore the Moon and have results which one have high confident about it’s accuracy- that is important for NASA the space agency. Or Moon is testbed in terms of Mars in regards to question can NASA competently explore.
    Exploring Mars is going to be hard, let’s see if NASA can do reasonable job of exploring a small region of the lunar poles.
    Exploring the Moon is way to get the confident of Public and Congress, that NASA might be able to explore Mars.
    ISS and what seeing so far in terms of “plans” of exploring the Moon, does not give such confident.

  • mike shupp

    -Richard M
    May 3, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    “What exactly is it that a Gateway gradually built in the late 2020’s will actually *do* ?”

    What strikes me is what a Gateway WON’T do. It doesn’t lead to a Moonbase, for one. Or more exactly, it substitutes for a moonbase. We’ll send astronauts to the Gateway, one or two of them will occasionally go down to the surface for a couple of days at most, then return to the Gateway for subsequent flight back to Earth. Flags and footsteps again, with a bit of science or inspection of automatic machinery, but no nonsense about a permanently manned outpost on the lunar surface.

    And of course, no Lunar City or any other form of settlement. No one staying on the moon thru retirement and eventual death of old age. No children being born and schooled there. No lunar mines or Macdonalds or bank branches or any other ugly evidence of capitalism and an expanding lunar economy. Nobody here but us simon pure scientists!

    Which is probably a great relief to US politicians. We can go on bragging about the purity of our motives and the splendors of American leadership and the wonders of our technology. No nasty squabbles with the Chinese about who gets the first crack at deposits of ice or Helium-3 or titanium or whatever. No time wasted on inspecting possible living sites or craters tat might be roofed over for future farmlands. No money spent on extracting oxygen and nitrogen for a manufactured atmosphere for colonists. No space needed for roadways and schools and parks and trees to refresh people living on the moon. No writers working on the Great Lunar Novel, no Lunar Symphony Orchestras, no artists, no annoying political dissidents — just our splendid scientist astronauts! And nobody worth considering objecting that Whitey’s Back On The Moon but people on earth still stuffer from poverty!

    It’ll be just so wonderful, and save ever so much money, and what money it does cost will of course flow to people and corporations in Alabama and Florida and California, as if Natural and Proper and perhaps Celestially Ordained.

    Who needs the money, really, a Congressman has to ask. Who needs Mars? Sure, 20 billion a year for a space program going nowhere is moderately expensive but it’s just so much cheaper that one that accomplishes things and the bragging rights and the politicking are just as exciting!

    Maybe I’m cynical.

  • Edward

    What if Pence’s announcement that NASA is to get back to the Moon in five years is a politically expedient way to make SLS and Gateway obsolete, just as the Asteroid Return Mission was obsolete (even when proposed)?

    Richard M wrote: “[Congress] REQUIRES NASA to spend the money to do so, both through the 2010 Space Act, and through appropriations in this fiscal year. Gerst can’t suddenly decided to just shut down SLS, or spend all of the money appropriated for it on, say, commercial lunar lander development contracts.

    Unfortunately, Gerstenmaier is not managing the SLS project very well. Problems crop up that should not happen, such as the poorly-built floor to the manufacturing building or the sudden need to build a second mobile launcher. Better management, better planning, and fewer changes are what are needed on that project. A tighter schedule and a sense of urgency would have allowed the project to be flying already, and at less cost than we are seeing now.

    Allowing overruns in costs and schedule drives what can be done in the future and when it can be done, and that drives policy.

    The Gateway idea is NASA’s, not Congress’s, and that idea is threatening to drive policy into a suboptimal method of returning to the Moon or for getting anywhere in the solar system, which are the main selling points for building Gateway. Taking longer and costing more will propagate NASA’s policy of inefficiency in the manned space program onto yet another project, lasting for yet another decade or more. This policy of inefficiency is already ingrained in the astronomy program, as can be seen with JWST and WFIRST.

    Instead of NASA or Congress insisting upon a policy of urgency, it is Pence and the Trump administration that are doing so. We should watch to see who pushes back on this proposed new policy.

    gbaikie wrote:
    And I don’t think NASA would currently exist without this very important market.

    I think that what really keeps NASA going is the half-century old idea that one day we will send people to Mars. This is why so many probes are built in order to explore Mars, rather than the Moon or Venus.

    If there is huge amount water on the Moon, in sense it would not say good things about NASA. One could ask how could miss it. Why didn’t know decades ago.

    The idea of water at the poles is fairly old, and Clementine found evidence of it two decades ago.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clementine_(spacecraft)#Mission
    NASA announced on March 5, 1998, that data obtained from Clementine indicated that there is enough water in polar craters of the Moon to support a human colony and a rocket fueling station.

    The disappointing thing about NASA and lunar water sources is that it took so long for us to get serious about getting back to the Moon in order to take advantage of that newly discovered resource. It took half a decade to convince a president to go back to the Moon, but they lost the initiative on that when the next president chose a not-invented-here approach to space exploration, distracting us for a decade trying to chase down an uninteresting and not-yet useful asteroid. During that decade, NASA seemed to convince Congress to continue a heavy launch vehicle and a manned spacecraft, but did not convince them to keep their eyes on the prize: lunar water as a valuable space resource. So, yes, not much good to say about NASA, on that score.

    Although later probes discovered that there is hydrogen at and near the poles, NASA has yet to send a probe to the poles to confirm that the hydrogen is in the form of H2O, but that is a relatively safe bet as there are few other forms of hydrogen that are likely to congregate there.

    In the meantime, it would be nice to have commercial space’s plans for future space expansion, exploration, and use be more supported by NASA’s explorations and space-based infrastructure. The Space Shuttle’s cost and infrequent service ended up hampering rather than helping commercial space use and expansion. The reduced crew on the International Space Station (ISS) is not as helpful as we had expected to get from the originally planned full-sized crew, and ISS is definitely more costly than it should have been. Using Gateway as a gateway to the Moon would be too expensive for commercial space to afford; it is a useless resource for virtually all of commercial space’s purposes.

  • pzatchok

    Doesn’t anyone but me think that any water found on the Moon should be used just on the Moon?

    Any Lunar base is going to need huge amounts of water for food production, materials production and extraction, habitat construction and of course for cooking drinking and washing.

    What materials are we going to make those habitats out of? Lunar rigolith? Don’t you need water to make cement even if you can use lunar materials for most of the rest of the concrete. What holds it together in the first place.

    Its not like you can just drill into the Moon and pump water out.
    Its mixed into the rigolith over a meter deep in very inconvenient places. So you will have to strip mine for it and mine so fast that it doesn’t sublimate/evaporate out of the material before it gets to a place to have it extracted in an environmentally sealed room.

    It will cost trillions to build a Lunar water mining facility. Meanwhile fuel from the Earth is being offered at a few hundred bucks a ton.
    At current Falcon Heavy prices and re-usability how much fuel can be lifted into space for a trillion dollars?
    And we can do this NOW. Not 10 years from now. And we don’t need some stupid Gateway to make it happen.
    So please stop it with the idea of water or fuel from the Moon.

    The ONLY real fuel on the Moon is nuclear/radioactive and helium-3.

    After a Lunar community is built the cheapest way to get off the Moon is a linear accelerator. Just electricity no water/fuel needed. No atmosphere to slow it down.

  • pzatchok

    Sorry a few thousand bucks a ton.

  • Edward

    pzatchok,
    You asked: “Doesn’t anyone but me think that any water found on the Moon should be used just on the Moon?

    Apparently not. It is similar to thinking that any water found on Earth, Mars, or asteroids should only be used there. After all, what would happen if we were to use up all the water in any of those places?

    It will cost trillions to build a Lunar water mining facility. Meanwhile fuel from the Earth is being offered at a few [thousand] bucks a ton.

    I think that your problem is that your assumption is wrong. The first part of the water mining facility may cost a hundred million dollars, but once we have some basic manufacturing facilities, we can use lunar material (in-situ material) and a little material from Earth, such as carbon, to construct most of what we need for larger mining and manufacturing facilities. So the first lunar fuel mine and factory will cost about as much as 15 BFR launches, two Falcon 9 Launches, or one Falcon Heavy launch to low Earth orbit (LEO).

    Falcon Heavy:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_Heavy
    $90 million per launch, 70 tons to LEO, about $130,000 per ton.

    Taking that fuel from LEO to lunar orbit would require additional cost — additional rocket launches — so the cost of that fuel will start to be far more expensive than lifting it from the Moon.

    Your thinking is similar to insisting that the American colonies should have shipped all their supplies from England and that they should not used in-situ resources to make their towns, farms, and factories, because England was where all the blacksmiths, lumber mills, and factories were.

    Considering that you think it will cost a trillion dollars to start any industrial operation there, just when, pzatchok, do you expect any industry to begin on the Moon? Or anywhere other than the surface of the Earth?

    I keep explaining that transporting fuel from the Moon will cost far, far less than lifting it from the surface of the Earth, and should water there start to run low, then getting it from asteroids would cost less than lifting it from Earth.

    And we can do this NOW. Not 10 years from now.

    Except that is what we do now, and it is terribly expensive. It reduces the size of our planetary probes and prevented us from building a Pluto probe that could go into orbit around that planet. Even with a low-cost rocket, making orbiting solar power plants for powering Earth (for example), would be far more expensive if all the material had to come up from Earth than if it came from the Moon or from asteroids.

    After a Lunar community is built the cheapest way to get off the Moon is a linear accelerator.

    I will use that for getting material (from those trillion-dollar mines and factories) off the Moon, but I’ll wait for the next chemical-propelled rocket for my ride off the Moon. It may be more expensive, and it may use precious lunar fluids, but it is a more survivable acceleration with a wider range of destinations.

  • pzatchok

    How are you thinking the water on the moon will be mined?
    How long do you think it will take to map out the best possible mining sites? 10 years at best. And you will need to send people to make sure.
    Robots? Sorry 10 to 20 years off at best. And they will still need people for maintenance. After you find the best places to mine.
    If we find something like permafrost on the moon do you know just how hard it is to mine permafrost without thawing it out first? And it has to stay frozen until we can get it into a closed environment otherwise we lose the water.

    And please don’t equate the colonies on the Earth with colonies in space.
    The only thing any colony on Earth needs is a few tools from home and manpower to start. You could bring almost everything you needed on your back.
    Everything else was supplied from the new colony site with almost no effort at conversion. Water falls from the sky and food grows at our feet. Cut trees and build buildings. Cut trees and clear land for farms. Mud rocks cob and or sod if you do not have trees.

    I know the math and the SIMPLE fact that launching something off the moon is resource cheaper then launching it off of the Earth. It just takes less fuel. Everyone knows that.
    You just seem to ignore ALL the effort and expense to get to that simple point.

    Building the Gateway in orbit around the Moon is like finding oil in the arctic and immediately building a gas station next to it.

    Wouldn’t it be fuel cheaper to launch straight from the Earth to the Moons surface and straight from the Moons surface back to the Earth? Any stops in between actually use more fuel.

    Just put the Gateway ON the Moon next to the water.

  • Edward

    pzatchok,
    You asked: “How are you thinking the water on the moon will be mined?

    My limited imagination does not matter nearly as much as the imaginations of those who are currently planning their mining operations.

    How long do you think it will take to map out the best possible mining sites?

    Do we have to start with the best possible mining sites? Why not start with something that will be productive enough early enough to keep the operation going while better sites are found?

    10 years at best. And you will need to send people to make sure.

    Sounds excellent, to me. I do not think that we are going to have lunar water mines tomorrow morning, and putting people back on the Moon with a long range purpose is a good thing, too. It is what we lacked under Apollo. If it happens in only ten years, woohoo!

    If we find something like permafrost on the moon do you know just how hard it is to mine permafrost without thawing it out first?

    Not nearly as hard as getting propellant off the Earth. Maybe as hard as mining mineral-bearing rock on Earth. Maybe not as hard. Shouldn’t we be sending some probes now in order to find out what we have to contend with, up there?

    And it has to stay frozen until we can get it into a closed environment otherwise we lose the water.

    Excellent. Good thing it starts off cold. Perhaps the mining vehicle has its own enclosure, similar to some of our current rovers and past landers. The Viking landers had enclosures, so how hard can it be to combine scoop and enclosure on one vehicle?

    And please don’t equate the colonies on the Earth with colonies in space.

    Why not? Everyone else in the industry does. That is why the big discussion about in-situ resource use, not only for colonization but just for visiting. Read Robert Zubrin’s “The Case for Mars” sometime.
    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/145160811X/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i1

    There is all kinds of useful material on the Moon and on Mars, just as there was useful material at the locations of the colonies on the Earth. The idea is to use it, just as the Earth colonies did.

    So, yes, I expect to make lunar habitats out of regolith or other lunar materials, and yes, there will be lunar water available should it be needed to make concrete for habitats, landing pads, factories, mines, or other structures.

    You just seem to ignore ALL the effort and expense to get to that simple point.

    I don’t know how you came to that conclusion.

    In addition, we have already put in a lot of effort and expended a lot of expense on experiments and tests of our abilities in space, from living to working, from experimenting to manufacturing. Are you ignoring all of that?

    Which brings me back to the question that you haven’t answered: just when do you expect any industry to begin on the Moon or anywhere other than the surface of the Earth?

    Building the Gateway in orbit around the Moon is like finding oil in the arctic and immediately building a gas station next to it.

    You failed to do your research. I even gave it to you. Read the Space News op-ed that I linked to in my first comment, above. Gateway is not nearly so next to the Moon as you think that it is. It is quite a delta-v away, and its 11-day orbit makes it less accessible than being “a gas station next to” the Moon. It is a major reason why so many people think it is a terrible idea, because NASA has declared that it will act as a gas station/way point for all voyages to the Moon and beyond. It is far, far too early for us to decide where to put that gas station/way point, but ULA has suggested that the Earth-Moon Lagrange point 1 (EML-1) would be suitable for many purposes.

    Wouldn’t it be fuel cheaper to launch straight from the Earth to the Moons surface and straight from the Moons surface back to the Earth? Any stops in between actually use more fuel.

    Once again, “I keep explaining that transporting fuel from the Moon will cost far, far less than lifting it from the surface of the Earth.” Lifting fuel from the Earth to LEO costs a delta-v of almost 10 km/sec. That is twice the delta-v as getting it from the Moon to LEO. The rocket equation shows that — depending upon engine efficiency, and we can have more efficient engines in space than as boosters — Earth to LEO requires around 7 times as much propellant. Zubrin suggested a refueling depot in LEO so that we don’t waste so much effort on propellant and instead use it to get precious cargo into space.

    Having said that, I do not expect us to start with all this infrastructure but to start with direct ascents to the Moon and only build LEO or EML-1 or other infrastructure as they become beneficial. Once again, I do not expect any of this tomorrow.

    Which also brings me back to that question: when do you expect any industry to begin on the Moon or anywhere other than the surface of the Earth?

    I’m asking it twice, here, because it is not rhetorical. I want to hear your expectation of the future.

    Just put the Gateway ON the Moon next to the water.

    This is something in which we are both in agreement.

  • pzatchok

    I don’t think there will ever be industry on the Moon. Not for any reason. Not at any time.

    Research stations, yes of course. Scientists will always find a benefactor someplace.

    Military bases maybe. But who do you trust to have a military base on the Moon and will the rest of the world go along with it?

    Private establishments like hotels or entertainment centers maybe, but who do we let operate them. how much do we sell the lunar land for, what nation oversees the establishment, will the rest of the world let a single nation do something like that? Just don’t see a moon hotel before we have a successful Earth orbit hotel.

    Elon Musk is in the launch industry because he found out it was cheaper (if not profitable) to manage, build and launch his own rockets than it would be to buy, rent or lease them from someone else just to put his internet constellation in orbit.
    Manned launch capability benefits him when he whats to launch and use the BFR to place a bunch of satellites in orbit at once. His statements about going to Mars or the Moon. Just bragging for now. He has no real plans for that until after his satellite constellation is fully in place and running. Then he will have the extra lift ability and maybe a few investors willing to waste the cash on a Mars landing.

    And no one is closer to being on the Moon than he is.

  • mike shupp

    pzatchok
    May 7, 2019 at 10:46 pm

    I don’t think there will ever be industry on the Moon.

    I see one good argument against lunar mining and industry: namely that the Moon has relatively low amounts of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and probably other things. Among other things, these elements are necessary for producing food. Current thinking is that such relatively rare elements are not part of the Moon’s initial composition but are carried to it by solar winds. Asteroids and meteors — SOME asteroids and meteors — seem to be better endowed.

    On the opposite side, without reference to the space program, we’re busy developing 3D-printing technology for fabricating everything from haute cuisine to hand guns (and yes , pieces of spacecraft) and it seems evident that our capabilities are going to increase remarkably. My bet is that in several decades, fairly rapid low-wastage and low-pollution fabrication is widespread, eliminating many conventional factories. Printing up new computer boards and fancy costumes for holidays on your home replicator may eventually seem as exotic and difficult as, say, printing your email on your PC is today. So I expect that lunar manufacturing may eventually be commonplace even if lunar factories remain rare.

  • Edward

    pzatchok,
    You wrote: “I don’t think there will ever be industry on the Moon. Not for any reason. Not at any time.

    So your belief is that we will forever be an Earthbound species, or do you think we can have industry on Mars, asteroids, or aboard space stations/habitats?

  • pzatchok

    I don’t think there will ever be heavy industry on the Moon.
    No one making rockets from Moon materials. Small replacement parts yes, but not whole rockets.
    the same with construction equipment. No one will be building bulldozers on the Moon. Assembling them of course, making small replacement parts yes but not the whole thing.
    I would count us extremely lucky if we could eventually grow enough food on the Moon to stop shipping it to the scientists there. That would , for me, mark the point that we have a permanent colony on the Moon.
    Someone being born on the Moon. Given enough time and people happy accidents will happen. Someone dying on the Moon. Again, given enough people its just bound to happen.

    As for humans being Earth bound and never leaving. We will leave the Earth. We will leave to expand all around the Milky-way.
    After we learn to exploit and mine the asteroids all over the solar system. After we learn to move them and mine them while in space and under thrust or motion. When we learn to build and fly spinning artificial gravity ships.
    Its easier to mine water off of a comet then the Moon.
    None of this requires a Lunar base. But it does require orbital habitats to experiment with zero to low gravity living and manufacturing.
    Once we can harvest directly from comets and asteroids we never have to come back into a heavy gravity well unless we want to.
    Once we can do that we can leave the solar system and travel to some of those Earth type worlds we are finding now.
    Yes it will take time and generations but we will find people willing to start the trip.

    We are humans. We are too smart and adaptable to be kept on this one planet.
    We are right now on the verge of having the needed tech to start the trip. We can send transponders before the ship leaves the solar system. That way we can keep a stream of communication going for hundreds of years. Any new technology and knowledge discovered on Earth can be transmitted and used on the generational ship.
    Unmanned supply ships can be sent ahead for the generational ship to catch up to and gather new supplies from.
    Once in a new solar system just harvest from the comets and asteroids found there.
    If a planet is found that can support human life you can leave a colony and continue on to the next solar system. Or at least seed the planet with life. So later people can use the planet.

    I can see in 100 years the human race being able to leave the solar system to never return.

  • pzatchok

    The Moon is convenient and pretty.
    Its seems logical that it would be our next step but its not. Its a dangerous diversion from the ultimate goal.

    Think of it this way.
    Your kid announces they are moving out. Everyone cheers and congratulates them.
    Just to find out they only moved to the garage. Your still paying all the bills and supplying all the food.

    The Moon is our garage.

  • mike shupp

    pzatchok
    May 8, 2019 at 10:58 pm

    The Moon is our garage.

    Nice point, but still, the kid in the garage is a bit closer to living on his own than the kid living in the basement, watching TV on the living room couch, expecting his mama to provide his meals and wash the dishes, and so on.

    Figure most of the solar system that humans might eventually live on — Mercury, Mars, the asteroids, the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, maybe even the Kuiper belt planetoids and the Oort Cloud bodies — is near airless or at least free of breathable air, is mostly cold, is almost certainly without life, and has very little gravity. We need to develop the technology that will allow self-supporting colonies to flourish in such circumstances.

    The Moon is close and convenient, near enough to allow for rapid communication with Earth-based experts and advisors and for relatively fast dispatch of supplies in emergencies. Moreover, it’s cold at least half the time, it has low gravity, just about no atmosphere, no life to support our own, etc. It’s the best of all places to serve as a test bed for the technology and social skills we’re likely to need elsewhere in the solar system. It’s darn near perfect as a place to begin space colonization.

  • Edward

    pzatchok,
    You wrote: “I don’t think there will ever be heavy industry on the Moon.

    Isn’t light industry, such as replacement parts, also an industry? Why do you think that a small industry will not eventually grow into a larger industry? Why shouldn’t earth-moving (lunar-moving?) equipment eventually be built where they will be used? Taking the parts to the lunar surface will cost at least 2 km/sec of delta-v, and far, far more if the parts have to climb up from Earth, so in-situ manufacturing would be preferred.

    None of this requires a Lunar base.

    But lunar exploration will require a Lunar base. Even if we use a mass driver to get material from the lunar surface to space, as you suggested, we have to collect that material in the first place. You even said that the collection equipment (robots) “will still need people for maintenance,” so a lunar base is pretty much inevitable.

    The Moon is convenient and pretty. Its seems logical that it would be our next step but its not. Its a dangerous diversion from the ultimate goal.

    As Spudis said, “it is close, it is interesting, and it is useful.” At least in the near term, this is a good place to use as a stepping stone. Saying that it is a diversion from the ultimate goal is like saying that a LEO space station was a diversion. Both are fabulous for learning how to work and live in space, and the Moon has plenty of resources that do not have to be lifted from Earth at great cost. It is also like saying that Mars is a diversion.

    Until we develop asteroid mining, the Moon and Mars are definitely the places to go.

    As for being the garage, it is a pretty distant garage that is far too difficult to reach for it to be considered a disappointing place for the kid to move to. And if the kid becomes industrious enough, then he can pay for his own food.

    This is why it is so much more important for commercial operations to go to space than for governments to do so. Commercial operations will find ways to make more money than they spend. They will concentrate on the places and activities that will do so.

    Commercial-space is the kid that will move out of the house. Government-space will always mooch off the parents — the taxpayers — no matter where it goes.

    As I said in a comment way up above, commercial-space companies”may even be in a race among themselves as to which body will be reached and explored first,” the Moon or Mars.

  • pzatchok

    There is nothing on the Moon that can be exploited. Nothing.
    Name one thing on the Moon that there is more of than on the Earth?

    The Moon is a poor substitute for low G to Zero G research and construction.
    Just do it in Earth orbit on a spinning space station. Its cheaper and easier to maintain. Plus the construction of the station is half the research we need to be doing.

    Moon bases will be nothing more than Antarctic research stations without the convenience of air, water, friendly weather and rapid supply trips. At least for the first 30 to 50 years of their existence.
    How long have we had the ISS without a permanent station being built? Double that time, quadruple the cost and you get the idea.

    Mars will be even worse.
    By the time we can put a permanent colony on Mars we will not have to, and more than likely not want to.
    Mars is just another Moon but with a inconveniently higher gravity.

    What kind of bait/profit will make a billionaire invest in going to Mars or the Moon? What can he bring back that will profit him? Gold, Plutonium, rare Earth elements, aluminum, or will it be diamonds?
    Oh he will go just for the bragging rights, boasting points and pictures but nothing will make him stay.

    I am sorry to tell you but 3D printing is not the answer to manufacturing things on the Moon. You first have to mine the raw materials, separate them and then purify them. Then you can use it for 3D printing. That means heavy industry.
    Plus 3D printing can not and never will make stronger materials than we make now by other methods. You can not weld 3d printed objects together. You can not 3d print wire or fiber optic cable.

  • mike shupp

    pzatchok
    May 9, 2019 at 11:02 pm

    1. We’ve got very different ideas about how humans might expand into space. From my viewpoint, humans have a very powerful attachment to the ground — not in the sense of gravity, but as living space, an expanse with a landscape to look at and room to swing one’s limbs about, places which are owned (or at least occupied) and bequeathed to others, and so on. I can believe lunar cities might be built someday; I can imagine settlements on the plains of Mars and beneath the surfaces of the larger asteroids; I can even visualize O’Neill colonies spinning in the vacuum between the planets to accompany these settlements.

    But I can’t imagine people living in O’Neill colonies without any other alternative. It strikes me as absurd as living in airplanes which are fueled mid-air and never land, just for the sake of being born and living and dying in the air. It’s not a thing sensible normal people would do or even want to do.

    And I can’t imagine people attempting to travel to the stars without some previous experience of living on various moons and planets — even UNHAPPY and FAILED experience of life on the bodies of the solar system — and without expectation that the stars harbor planets and satellites which might eventually be lived on. I think of a future in which we send robot mining machinery to the Moon and Mars and asteroids, and construct robot factories to manufacture great gleaming cylinders and toruses which will be thronged by humans in large number, spinning about in isolation … and I shake my head. It just doesn’t seem possible.

    2. We disagree also about the prospects for “3D-printing.” I’m using that as a name for technology which includes things more advanced than what we now have — for nanotechnology in general, for the capability of manipulating individual atoms and molecules, or at least smaller grains of material than we handle at present. It strikes me if you’ve got the technology to lay down molecules in ordered fashion to create some elaborate structure — computer circuitry, for example, or snips of genetic code — you’ve also got the technology to separate grains of gold from granite and other capabilities. You’d be limited by time and energy (and maybe computer software) rather than by materials. In the long long run, of course.

  • Edward

    pzatchok,
    You wrote: “There is nothing on the Moon that can be exploited. Nothing. Name one thing on the Moon that there is more of than on the Earth?

    Actually, there is plenty on the Moon that can be exploited. You have even mentioned two things that are more easily collected on the Moon than on Earth. Can you remember what they are? I didn’t think so.

    What do you imagine the Moon is made of, green cheese? Here is an opportunity for you to do a little research of your own. What materials can be found on the Moon in vast quantities? What is the surface made of?

    You continue to insist that we spend trillions of dollars to get lots of heavy material off the Earth (remember our delta-v discussion? I didn’t think so), but ignore how inexpensively we can move things around once they are in space or even lift them off the Moon and get them to LEO. You don’t even bother to explain how your economics works better than the reality of space economics that the experts discuss. Then again, you don’t bother to read the trade magazines or websites in order to see what is being discussed. You just make it up, because you have a hard time imagining how space works differently than just driving down to the chemist for a Pepsi. You discuss this as though it is no more difficult to get that Pepsi into space than it is to drive it back home.

    Moon bases will be nothing more than Antarctic research stations without the convenience of air, water, friendly weather and rapid supply trips. At least for the first 30 to 50 years of their existence.

    Yet Antarctic research stations are worth the effort and expense. There is barely anything new to explore there, compared to the differences between Earth, the Moon, and Mars.

    What kind of bait/profit will make a billionaire invest in going to Mars or the Moon? … Oh he will go just for the bragging rights, boasting points and pictures but nothing will make him stay.

    Not staying is your own assumption. Here is another opportunity for you to do a little research of your own. We have one billionaire investing in going to Mars, and a richer billionaire investing in going to the Moon. Let me know what you find out. I am truly interested in your research results.

    I am sorry to tell you but 3D printing is not the answer to manufacturing things on the Moon. You first have to mine the raw materials, separate them and then purify them. Then you can use it for 3D printing.

    With that logic, 3D printing (additive manufacturing) is not the answer to manufacturing things on the Earth, either. Neither is any kind of manufacturing, for that matter.

    Meanwhile, the industry tells me differently, and they know what they are talking about. Why do you imagine that only one type of manufacturing technique will be applied to space? As with Earthly endeavors, the techniques used will trend toward the best ones for each task.

    Who needs to weld 3D-printed objects when the object can be printed as the welded unit. This is why rocket engines are currently being 3D printed.

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