First, a major impediment to anything achievable in space is the problem of manufacturing and engineering. I cite the boondoggle of the ISS. That situation must be corrected. I believe that a major push to put humans on Mars is an unnecessary and mistaken effort. It will be horrifically expensive, and we must ask, "At this point in time, what can humans do there that cannot be done by robots?" A moon base for the purpose of testing equipment and life support systems, testing radiation shielding, and low gravity experiments would be a much more valuable goal. It should be supported by a simple space station in orbit around the moon whose primary purpose is to support the moon base, act as a nearby safety measure, and to manage the parking of cargo vessels. I believe this sort of goal could ignite the interest of people world wide and gain a lot of support for space missions.
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