The perennial question: Moon or Mars?

We don’t need to go to the Moon in order to go to Mars. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go to the Moon. It’s just not a prerequisite.

I love this quote from John Grunsfeld, when asked about the radiation risk of a Mars trip: “How does that compare to the risk of blowing up on the launchpad or on ascent; getting hit by a meteor, asteroid, debris, some kind of space junk on the way there; burning up in the Mars atmosphere; burning up in the Earth’s atmosphere on the way back; or missing the Earth? You add up all those risks, and the [risk of radiation exposure] is kind of just another one.”

Off the shelf to the Moon

This is a fascinating development. The head of NASA just opened the door for commercial launch of NASA lunar missions.
 
“If we tell you, and others, that we’re going to launch in June of 2020 around the Moon, I think we should launch around the Moon in June of 2020. And I think it can be done. We should consider, as an agency, all options to accomplish that objective.”