Those people who have been following the Trump push to return to the moon may be wondering, when will people actually arrive at Earth’s nearest neighbor? After all, when President Kennedy stated the man on the moon goal in 1961, he said, “Before this decade is out.” By hard work, lots of money, and no little luck, the thing was accomplished on July 20, 1969. However, no one is discussing deadlines for the current lunar effort. This oversight may be wise, considering the tendency of NASA and commercial space to miss deadlines.

The Lunar Exploration Analysis Group weighs in.

While we are waiting for NASA to complete its 45 day study, the Lunar Exploration Analysis Group, an organization of scientists, engineers, and policy experts formed by NASA to support the last attempt to return to the moon in 2004, President George W. Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration, has provide something of an answer. People will return to the moon no later than 2027 according to the timeline that Leonard David is reporting.

The plan that LEAG has developed is heavily dependent on the commercial sector to provide access to the lunar surface. Missions will start next year with private sector moon landings, some of which will be supported by NASA in the form of paying for payloads.

The space agency would begin forming commercial and international partnerships and would commission a serious study in the economics of the moon’s resources.

In the three to five-year timeframe, things start to ramp up with more robotic missions to the moon, demonstrations of In Situ Resource Utilization Technologies (ISRU) and robot prospector missions.

Five to 10 years will see the deployment of pilot ISRU plants and fuel depots, more robotic missions, and finally, the next small step for a person and the giant leap for humankind, to translate the famous words spoken by Neil Armstrong into 21st Century politically correct speech.

Are ten years too long to wait?

An entire generation of people have been born, have grown to adulthood, and have had children since men last walked on the moon.

Even so, another ten years may not be all that terrible to wait for the next moonwalk, providing that NASA and its international and commercial partners can learn to stick to a schedule. Yes, one can roll one’s eyes, but miracles can happen.

On the other hand, maybe it might be a good idea to advance the first human moon landing a few years, even if it is a technology demonstrator that takes place before the more systematic build up to a lunar base. The return to the moon is as much a political act as it is being undertaken for scientific, technological, and economic reasons. The sooner that the United States and its partners can return to the moon, and prove that we are capable of doing great things in this most disappointing of all centuries, the better.