A Vision for the Near Future
Obama's decision not to return to the Moon is being rejected - keep rejecting it. Ignoring the Moon because "we've been there, done that" is simply absurd when there is so much we can learn by being there. Other entities (China for one) are planning their own lunar base and space stations...and it is highly likely that some entity will militarize those platforms. Don't believe that a "treaty" prevents someone from militarization of space - once an entity can establish itself there isn't much anyone else can do to make them compliant.
The United States of America and the old Soviet Union (both working with commercial or state partners) are responsible for creating all of the technology to get into and survive in space. Most certainly with the International Space Station (ISS) it has become a multinational operation. Using our current technology why should we focus on an asteroid landing or sending a crew for what would most certainly be a slingshot flight around Mars? I want to go to Mars - by that I mean I want to stand on the surface of it. Regrettably in my lifetime unless the technology and politics change I won't physically be able to experience that - but mentally I have been far beyond.
Currently we have to create massive rockets to launch from the surface of the Earth with enough power to orbit Earth gaining additional speed before leaving orbit for the Moon, Mars or anywhere else. Propellant is required to break the spacecraft acceleration, place it in any kind of orbit, keep the orbit, perform operations, break orbit and head back for a direct hit on Earth. At the end of the mission very little is left of the original launch craft.
Our labs are exploring new propulstion technologies, creation of energy fields, energy containment and more. We have people like Bigelow leading the way with expandables. We have commercial entities working on returning our astronauts into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and developing the capability of taking them beyond. All of these certainly takes money but these efforts are underway and don't require "new starts".
Our Apollo space program showed we could safely mate components in Earth orbit before pressing on to the Moon. We can still do this but there will be a time that the orbital junkyard becomes a real threat to anything below and passing through it. Cleaning up this junkyard is going to take time and it's going to take new technology.
I like what the corporate sector has accomplished and where it's going. I certainly feel they should be paid realistically to perform the services that were intended - in part launching national not corporate astronauts.
What is your vision of mankind in outer space of the future? Is it a mega-corporation undertaking where the corporation can demand any price for any service and any material brought back? Is it a unified effort spanning countries making it a global effort where these services and material can be realistically valued?
Returning to Space...and Going BEYOND