Rep Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, currently considered a front runner for the post of NASA Administrator under the upcoming Donald Trump administration, is a warm supporter of a return to the moon. In a recent speech to the Lunar Exploration Group, Bridenstine made a case that access to lunar water would help to extend the lives of large satellites, which tend to be abandoned when their station keeping fuel runs out. Rocket fuel refined from lunar water would be used to top off the satellites’ tanks, extending their useful lives and mitigating against Space debris, caused when derelict satellites break apart and collide with one another.

Bridenstine also touted the potential of other lunar resources, including platinum group metals, to fundamentally change the American economy and how it relates to travel to and from the moon.

Lunar water has already been suggested as a way to lower the cost of the trip between the Earth and moon and into deep space, especially on NASA’s Journey to Mars. Bridentine’s insight suggests a more immediate, practical reason to return to the moon, enhancing American commercial and military capabilities by extending the lives of satellites and mitigating the problem of space debris.

All indications exist that one of the first decisions that the Trump administration will make concerning space policy is to order NASA to return to the moon, likely in partnership with American allies and commercial companies. The decision will not be seen as a replacement of the Journey to Mars but as a compliment to it.

One of the virtues of a return to the moon is that astronaut boots could be on the lunar surface far sooner than they will be on Mars in the current plan.

NASA is already building two elements of a return to the moon, the Orion deep spacecraft and the heavy lift Space Launch System. Lunar landers and lunar surface habitats could be acquired from the private sector, perhaps in a lunar version of the current commercial crew program.

A return to the moon, declared twice by presidents named George Bush and canceled twice by their Democratic successors, would be one of the most significant events in human history since the end of the Apollo program.

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