Should we take the new trump initiative to go back to the moon seriously? Eric Berger over at Ars Technica suggests some skepticism, based on what happened to two previous presidential space exploration initiatives, both announced by presidents named Bush. NASA Watch echoes that cynicism, however, some hope exists that this time America might well be going back to the moon despite the two previous failures. The political realities of the Trump era are slightly different than what adhered in the early 1990s and the first decade of the 21st Century,

Why did the Space Exploration Initiative and Vision for Space Exploration fail?

The gentle reader is invited to pick up a copy of my “Why is it So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?” for a detailed answer to the question as to why previous space exploration projects came to grief.

Each one had a different set of reasons.

President George H. W. Bush’s Space Exploration Initiative ran into massive opposition in both Congress and, ironically, at NASA. The main reason for the pushback was that the first Bush administration did not vet the program with stakeholders in the legislative branch and the aerospace community. Had it done so, the first Bush White House would have been aware of possible objections and would have been able to adjust the initiative accordingly and done a little selling in advance.

President George W. Bush avoided the mistakes made by his father. However, he managed to make new ones. After a year in which the Bush White House shepherded that initial funding of the Vision for Space Exploration through Congress, it seemed to have lost interest in its own program.

Bush never mentioned it again and did not push for adequate funding in the out years. Matters were not helped when House Majority Leader Tom Delay, a stalwart champion of the program, had to leave Congress under an ethics cloud.

It should also be mentioned that both the Space Exploration Initiative and the Vision for Space Exploration were canceled by Democratic presidents, Clinton and Obama respectively, for partisan reasons.

Will the Trump moon initiative fare any differently?

Berger suggests the following to indicate whether the third time is a charm. “To find out if we're really going back to the Moon, we'll need to see a concrete plan for doing so, adequate funding, and some kind of indicator that this administration and future ones are in this for the long haul.” While all of this is dependent on how much follow through the Trump administration employs, some reasons for hope exists that this time American moon boots may well be on the lunar soil sooner rather than later.

Sentiment in favor of going back to the moon exists in Congress to some extent. The Trump initiative should get congressional champions in the form of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Rep. John Culberson, R-Texas, among others.

The probably new administrator of NASA, Jim Bridenstine, is a warm supporter of a return to the moon. He can be relied upon, unlike Richard Truly, to bend the space agency to the task. NASA seems to be ready and willing to executive the pivot back to the moon.

A number of commercial companies, including SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Moon Express are eager to participate in a return to the moon. International partners such as the European Space Agency are on board as well.

The Trump moon initiative still could fail because of bad politics. However, it looks like the stars may be aligning and that the third time may well be a charm.