Frank's note: Readers, in this my last exercise in gauging your ideas before Keith slips back in the saddle, I thought Id ask your views about the moon-specifically on whether or not to make it the initial focus of the VSE. Again, Buzz Aldrin has provoked my thoughts by suggesting that the U.S. defer any manned landings on the moon at all, instead developing a multi-national lunar development regime and using the heavy lift boosters and landers that would be developed by others, not the U.S. In his approach, the focus should be squarely on Mars, via its moons at first.
How would each of you use the moon in the context of solar system exploration? Would the U.S. taxpayer stand for seeing the Chinese land on the moon while the U.S. was in a multi-decade Mars mission development program? If the U.S. used the moon to mature technologies for deeper missions to asteroids, or Mars, could a sortie-type approach suffice, or would a permanent lunar base be the better way? Or could we reasonably avoid the moon entirely in a credible manned Mars effort, assuming the Obama administration made such a goal a priority?