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Why go to the moon? Playing the Trump card

Bigelow lunar depot
An artist’s conception shows Bigelow Aerospace’s lunar depot in orbit. (Bigelow Aerospace)

Nearly 55 years ago, President John F. Kennedy said America chose to go to the moon and take on other challenges “not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Now it’s commercial space ventures that are choosing to go to the moon.

Back in the 1960s, the moon effort was aimed at demonstrating America’s greatness. A similar motivation is at work this time around: to demonstrate that President Donald Trump is making America great again.

Trump has given nods to the space effort in his two big speeches: In his inauguration address, he said America was “ready to unlock the mysteries of space.” And in his address to this week’s joint session of Congress, he said seeing American footprints on distant worlds was “not too big a dream.”

So far, however, specifics have been in short supply – no doubt because Trump has other priorities on his mind right now, and because a new administrator for NASA hasn’t yet been named.

That has left commercial players such as Blue Origin, SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace free to fill in the gaps, adapting their goals in space to fit a first-term time frame.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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