According to this article on Spaceflight Now, those in the know in the US manned spaceflight program are already planning new presentations and new directions for the program once the Bush Administration ends in January next year.
Not that I’d know either way, but reading through, there does seem to be a certain logic in moving forward to new challenges with new technology, as opposed to going back to somewgere humanity has already been, to little advantage. Sure, the manned Moon landings of the seventies were thrilling and a major step forward for manned spaceflight, but at the heart of the Apollo Program was the ideological-political imperative and ‘Cold War’ me-tooism. Without those priorities, it’s doubtful whether humanity would have made it to the Moon even now.
Personally, I can see great benefits in staging research satellites, telescopes and so on at the ‘L’ points. There’s so much more to be seen once such instruments are out away from the clutter and haze of the Earth’s atmosphere. As for exploring asteroids, well……if Mars missions are to be taken in steps that avoid using the Moon as a launch base, then I suppose a Near Earth Asteroid exploratory journey provides good information for a planned Phobos or Deimos landing, and from there to Mars itself.
Good to see that real scientists, practising real science still hold the reins of common-sense in the US space program. The horses might need a bloody good feed and some new fittings, but at least the reins are well held.