Speaking recently at a meeting of the NASA's Lunar Exploration Analysis Group (LEAG), Rep. Jim Bridenstine. R-OK touted a return to the moon, and the exploitation of its resources as a means to jumpstart America’s #Space program. He is attempting to move legislation that will allow the FAA to grant mission approvals for commercial companies to conduct lunar voyages much as it already authorizes private launches. So far, only Moon Express has been given a mission approval on an ad hoc basis for planned lunar excursions to take place in 2017. Such approvals are required as part of a provision of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty.
Bridenstine, who has term limited himself to one more two-year term in Congress, has become a leading champion of commercial space and a return to the moon. He has introduced the American Space Renaissance Act that has a number of provisions that would reform NASA and enable commercial space development. He hopes that some of these provisions will be incorporated in other legislation, such as the NASA Authorization bill.
Bridenstine touted using lunar water, refined into rocket fuel, to keep communication satellites operating longer. The idea is that the cost of comsats would be reduced and the problem of space debris would be somewhat mitigated. Other space visionaries have already touted lunar water as fuel to turn the moon into a refueling stop for spacecraft headed to destinations such as Mars, eliminating the need to carry all propellant needed directly from Earth. Access to lunar fuel would also reduce the cost of travel between the Earth and moon if and when humans start living on Earth’s nearest neighbor.
Bridenstine’s remarks came at a time of renewed interest in the commercial exploitation of the moon’s resources, with the Google Lunar X Prize going into high gear and NASA expressing interest in partnerships with private companies to restart lunar exploration. President Barack Obama had publicly eschewed interest in a return to the moon, a #Policy that most believe will be reversed by the next president, whoever he or she might be.