A Florida Today article Sunday suggests that uncertainty about the outcome of the Presidential election, and the resulting effect on space policy, has frozen efforts to develop a series of robotic lunar missions that would be forerunners of eventual human missions:
“They are not going to go forward with the vision until they see how the election is going to turn out, and that’s true of Congress also,” said Paul Spudis, a planetary geologist at Johns Hopkins University who served on the President’s Commission on Moon, Mars and Beyond.
“Seriously, their people are running in place and they want to see what’s going to happen,” Spudis said. “My sense is that we won’t actually get moving out on this — on the detailed architecture and strategy studies — until that is resolved.”
That’s true to some degree: it seems unlikely a Kerry Administration would be so keen on lunar missions if it is as strongly opposed to the overall exploration program as it appears to be. However, the article misses the point that there is some opposition in Congress regarding how the initial mission, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), is bring run: while NASA is soliciting proposals for LRO instruments, NASA is building the spacecraft in-house even though there are any number of companies perfectly capable of building it. There have even been suggestions for data purchase and prize mechanisms to obtain the data LRO would acquire, which would seem to better fulfill the commercialization imperative of the Aldridge Commission. So, even if Bush wins reelection and the exploration program continues on, NASA lunar exploration plans as currently stated could still face opposition in Congress.