"Anyhow, we are getting ready to see a traffic jam on the Moon. We won't be in that jam, but we can watch everyone else get caught up in it. My view has not changed. NASA continues to under perform. Sure, there has been periods of excellence. But for the amount we spend on NASA, we get little in return."
I want to go back and re-visit China's space program. Why? What they did last month was pretty darned extraordinary. Landing a rover on the dark side of the Moon, when during the landing phase, the lander had to be totally autonomous (China's AI at work). That - was quite a feat! I mean heck, landing on the front side of the Moon has become almost passe. Just because we don't do it anymore, does not mean that others won't.
What others? We are still the "Mack Daddy" of space flight, are we not? We do after all, fund NASA around $35B annually for their science projects. Guess what folks? Other countries have figured out how to go into space and have fun for a whole lot less. For example, China, who just landed the CE-4 on the dark side of the Moon (something we cannot yet do), did so with a space budget with 1/7th of ours. And they are not done. They have plans for more and more travels as we get into the 2020's.
The Euro Space Agency (ESA) has a budget of $5.7B. The Russians a bit over $3B. Don't know what the budget of India and Japan are, but those two countries also want a bite of the apple. They also want to visit the Moon with rovers. In fact, China has been in talks with the ESA about a joint Moon base idea. Sooner rather than later.
What about us? What is our next big shebang at NASA? I will put Blue Origin and SpaceX aside for the time being. I want to talk only about our $35B a year baby - NASA. For starters, another Mars rover is planned for July of 2020 (yawn). Then by 2025, NASA wants to have a Lunar orbiter launched. Much smaller than the ISS, it would spend much of its time uninhabited by us. However, it could be for rent to any other country who might want to use it.
A part time Lunar orbiter by 2025? That is it NASA? Hello? First country to the Moon fifty years ago? How about a Moon base? You are NASA for crying out loud! With the budget we have, we should have had Moon bases established decades ago. Meanwhile, Elon Musk is still planning to send a Japanese billionaire to the Moon by 2023 using his SpaceX program. Bezos on the other hand, is backing off a bit on near term Moon ambitions.
Anyhow, we are getting ready to see a traffic jam on the Moon. We won't be in that jam, but we can watch everyone else get caught up in it. My view has not changed. NASA continues to under perform. Sure, there has been periods of excellence. But for the amount we spend on NASA, we get little in return. My motto - Moon base or bust!