No matter who is elected president in 2016, America may be headed back to the moon. The assessment is not so much based on the positions Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are taking on space policy, but on who is advising each candidate on that subject.

Ars Technica’s Eric Berger notes that President Bill Clinton’s last science advisor, a physicist named Neal Lane, is also serving as Hillary Clinton’s unofficial science, space, and technology advisor. Lane, at a recent conference at the James Baker Public Policy Institute, came out for a return to the moon and made a case for the same. Berger believes that Lane will have a voice in setting space policy if Hillary Clinton prevails.

Newt Gingrich is one of Donald Trump’s top advisors on a number of issues. Gingrich famously called for the establishment of a lunar base when he ran for president in 2020. While the proposal was met with approval in aerospace circles, Gingrich’s main rival Mitt Romney heaped ridicule on the idea. Nevertheless, Trump has promised that Gingrich will have a prominent role in his hypothetical administration and doubtless he will have an influence on space policy.

One of President Barack Obama’s less discussed public policy blunders was his particular foreswearing of a return to the lunar surface. A number of studies have suggested that the decision was folly, especially considering that the moon could be used as a testing ground for the Journey to Mars. The moon is also a valuable destination in its own right, for political, scientific, and commercial reasons.

Each candidate, should he or she become president, would likely approach a return to the moon in different ways. Hillary Clinton would probably make a lunar exploration campaign NASA-centric, with international partners, such as the European Space Agency which as touted the concept of a “Moon Village.” Donald Trump might approach returning to the moon from a commercial perspective, partnering #NASA with a number of private companies with a view toward developing that world’s natural resources.

The question arises, will either or both candidate open their minds about the subject of returning to the moon? The sad experience of Gingrich mitigates against it, but nevertheless, it would be illuminating.    #JourneytoMars #ReturntotheMoon