"We should be, with all deliberate speed, returning to the Moon."
In recent weeks, NASA officials have been running a charm offensive on their proposed "Gateway" in lunar space, which would serve as a space station in a distant orbit around the Moon. The agency has proposed this interim step in lieu of returning directly to the lunar surface with humans. The agency has even started talking about the Gateway as a "spaceship," presumably because this sounds more exciting than a "station."
Public criticism of the proposal has been limited to date, in part because so much of the aerospace community has the potential to earn contracts by either helping to build the lunar space station or supply it with consumables once it is up and running in the mid-2020s. (We spoke to a few of the public critics for a feature published in September.)
However, during a meeting of the National Space Council Users' Advisory Group on Thursday, some of the criticism we've heard privately spilled into public view. One of the committee's members, Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, declared that, "I'm quite opposed to the Gateway."
Prefacing his comments by saying that these were his personal beliefs, Griffin said, "I think 2028 is so late-to-need that it doesn't even need to be on the table. Such a date does not demonstrate that the United States is a leader in anything. This is 2018. It took us eight years to get to the Moon the first time, and you're going to tell me it takes 10 to 12 to 14 to do it again when we know how? I just want to drop a flag on the play."
Griffin also had harsh words for the Gateway concept, saying that it did not make sense to build a lunar station before there was actually an engineering need for such a station.
"The architecture that has been put in play, putting a Gateway before boots on the Moon is, from a space-systems engineer's standpoint, a stupid architecture," he said.