Former Apprentice star-turned-president Donald Trump has not been shy about his desire to play lunar overlord. In December, he signed “Space Policy Directive 1,” which commands NASA to facilitate getting humans to the moon and eventually, Mars. While Trump is eager to send a crewed mission to the moon under his presidency, astronauts who have actual scientific credentials and didn’t just star in a third-tier reality show say that’s probably not going to happen.
In an interview with Voice of America (VOA) on Wednesday, American astronauts aboard the International Space Station said that while a lunar mission sounds exciting, it’s going to be more challenging than “a lot of people” assume.
“Going back to the moon is a bigger project than a lot of people think,” ISS Expedition 54 flight engineer Scott Tingle told VOA via live stream.
Tingle expressed further skepticism about launching a crewed mission into lunar orbit by 2023.
“Just because we’ve done it before doesn’t mean we’re that close to doing it now,” he said in an interview with VOA’s Russian service. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of engineering to do, a lot of planning to do, a lot of operations to do, and it’s going to be expensive. It’s going to take a lot of manpower, and it’s going to take a lot of thinking outside the box to make it as quickly and efficiently as we can.”
Time is running out for the International Space Station (ISS) program, which is expected to end in 2024. While a crewed return mission to the moon probably won’t take place under Trump’s presidency, the U.S. and Russia have already made plans to build a spaceport in lunar orbit called the Deep Space Gateway. This would hypothetically serve as a stepping stone for getting humans to Mars, and would remain in lunar orbit for a minimum of 10 years.
So while it makes sense to start thinking beyond the ISS, getting humans to the moon in the next four years isn’t realistic. The president will have to find other ways to fulfill his fantasy of serving as lunar CEO.