Speaking yesterday, the agency’s acting administrator, Chris Scolese, suggested “a shift in the agency’s direction”, from his predecessor Mike Griffin’s commitment to a lunar outpost as part of a slated 2020 manned return to the Moon.
However, Scolese told the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies of the House Committee on Appropriations: “We were looking at an outpost on the Moon, as the basis for that  estimate and that one is being revisited.
“It will probably be less than an outpost on the Moon, but where it fits between sorties, single trips, to the Moon to various parts and an outpost is really going to be dependent on the studies that we’re going to be doing.”
These “studies” seem to involve largely bypassing the Moon and focusing instead on more ambitious goals. Sciolese elaborated: “Recall [that] the Vision [for Space Exploration] was not just to go to the Moon as it was in Apollo, it was to utilise space to go on to Mars and to go to other places.
“We’ve demonstrated over the last several years that with multiple flights we can build a very complex system reliably – the space station – involving multiple nations… and we’ll need something like that if we’re going to go to Mars.”
He further teased: “So what I would like to see from NASA over time is an architecture that… will give us flexibility for taking humans beyond low-Earth orbit and allowing us to have options for what we can do at the Moon as well as other destinations… [like] Mars or an asteroidâÃ¶ so that there are options on what we do in 2020.”