The Wall Street Journal found itself dumbfounded and shocked today, the day of the the memorial service for Neil Armstrong being held at the National Cathedral in Washington DC, to discover that NASA has plans on returning to the moon, as you can see here:
They had apparently missed the active development of the Orion Spacecraft, which is having its maiden launch in 2014. They also missed the Morpheus Lander which had its first ground testing failure last month after two years of development. They also seem to have missed somehow the most powerful rocket in history, the Space Launch System.
That NASA has been actively developing an exploration roadmap to the moon comes as no surprise to anyone who follows NASA. Their latest roadmap has been public since March of this year. However, Rubert Murdoch run WSJ decided that this was a good opportunity to attack the administration for ending the failing Bush-era Constellation Program, which had spent $10 billion in multiple redesigns and dead-end development and was found to not be ready to begin its lunar mission before 2027.
What sparked the WSJ comments was a speech given by Lori Garver this past Tuesday in Pasadena, California. At the annual American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics conference, the NASA Deputy Administrator outlined plans for a self-sustaining habitat, allowing astronauts not hours or days on the moon, but weeks and months.
In her speech Deputy Garver detailed plans for a return flight to the moon in 2017, with full manned operations to begin no later than 2021. She discussed the plans outlined in the July 2012 report “Voyages,” which covered ground as far-ranging as landing on the moon, exploring an asteroid, to eventual landings on Mars. She pointed out that the focus was not on large, flashy programs which do their job, land, plant a flag, then go home, but on sustainable, long-term goals to push humanity further out into the star system. By being focused on sustainability, instead of showmanship, NASA can seem a shell, or adrift. But as Deputy Garver pointed out, we are closer to the moon today than we have been since 1966.
With NASA currently preparing for the first launch of the Orion, an improved Morpheus, along with the SLS rapidly approaching the final stages before construction begins on the monster rocket, this is an exciting time to be in NASA. As Deputy Garver herself has said, “The best days of our space program are ahead of us.”