(Space.com) NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin defended his agency's determination to establish a lunar colony before embarking on a manned Mars mission Sept. 30, arguing that those who prefer to focus only on Mars are overestimating what is known about the Moon and underestimating the difficulties of going to Mars. [...]
Griffin said that before any attempt to send a crew to Mars is made, the sponsoring agency or agencies must at least be able to conduct the following mission: Send astronauts to the international space station for a six- or nine-month visit, after which they would be sent to the Moon for a similar amount of time, equipped with no additional supplies beyond those sent with them to the station.
Once they completed their Moon visit, this same group of astronauts would return directly to the space station for another six- to nine-month visit, again with no resupply.
A Mars before Moon plan would probably be considered insane at best, especially since we have yet to figure out a way to survive longterm without multiple "refreshments" from Earth.
Establishing a Moon base first will at least secure our presence off world, just in case the political winds of Congress turn against space in general (as a human mission towards Mars has less favor than the Moon).
It would also allow us to do a mini simulation to see whether we can survive independently from Earth (at least for a season).
While NASA's new focus may throw "a monkey wrench" in a direct Mars mission, it ironically lines up with Buzz Aldrin's road map, which specifically mentions revisiting the Moon before conquer the red deserts of Mars.
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