Back in the middle of the Obama administration, when the Journey To Mars was the program of record, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden would regularly dismiss the idea of a return to the moon, which many in Congress, the Commercial Sector, and the scientific community preferred. According to a 2013 piece in the Huffington Post, Bolden declared that NASA did not have the budget to develop a lunar lander. The Space Agency was entirely focused on asteroids and Mars, for which it did have a budget – or so Bolden said. However, that was then, and this is now.

NASA is prepared to pivot back to the moon

The question of a return to the moon was recently put to Ellen Ochoa, former astronaut and current director of the Johnson Spaceflight Center south of Houston, according to Ars Technica.

Ochoa was participating in a commemoration of President John F. Kennedy’s “we choose to go to the moon” speech at Rice University when she responded quite artfully. "If we do see an administration that decides to make a little bit of a turn and focus a little bit more on the Moon, I think we're very well set up to do it. It's not at all incompatible with what we're doing,”

Ochoa added that NASA always tries to keep its options open and that the architecture it is developing, the heavy-lift Space Launch System and the Orion spacecraft, is perfectly compatible to a return to the moon. The not often mentioned secret is that many at the space agency knew that the Journey to Mars was a sham program, though it was indiscreet to mention that fact during the previous administration. So the folks at a lower level than the NASA Administrator had prepared for a more sensible policy.

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We choose to return to the moon

The Trump administration is getting its leadership team for space in place. Scott Pace, return to the moon advocate, has already been appointed Executive Director of the National Space Council. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Oklahoma, another back to the moon enthusiast, had been nominated for NASA Administrator and, despite some initial opposition, it looks like he will be easily confirmed.

The space agency seems to be gearing up to acquire lunar landing capability commercially, in a sort of Commercial Lunar Transportation Systems program. The impending conclusion of the Google Lunar XPrize should demonstrate that private sector’s ability to provide such systems. First cargo will be sent to the moon and, in the fullness of time, people will go for the first time since the end of the Apollo program in 1972.