I'm doing some research in to the various NASA long term programs for human space exploration, and I'm having a really hard time figuring out how they are really different. It seems that since the "90 day report" in 1989 the plan has essentially been:

  1. Establish a long term presence in space via a space station.
  2. Do a mission to the Moon, or cis-lunar space, to test out capabilities for a longer mission. Possibly include an asteroid mission.
  3. Do a mission to Mars.

There has been so far as I can count 4 different versions of that plan, established under Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump, but they all basically seem to say the same thing when I start looking, except they want to scrap the "overpriced" rocket from the previous administration and start their own.

Am I missing something fundamentally, or are all of these programs basically the same thing?

  • What about Bill Clinton in that line of Presidents? – Uwe Jul 14 at 21:49
  • I couldn't find a program that he pushed forward. I might have missed it, but... I think space wasn't his thing? – PearsonArtPhoto Jul 14 at 21:50
  • Does anybody remember a success in that plans regarding manned Moon or Mars missions? – Uwe Jul 14 at 22:01
  • 4
    The Clinton Administration brought Russia into the ISS program. I'd say that's fairly significant. – Organic Marble Jul 14 at 22:37
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    The time needed to plan, prepare and execute a Mars mission seems to be much longer than the 4 or 8 years of a single President. – Uwe Jul 15 at 16:13

My current thinking is there are some elements that are more focused in some versions then others, and some different names given. Here is my version of what the various plans entail, and where they are different. Still a work in progress.

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  • "Lunar Orbital Platform Gateway"? Rudimentary research seems that to be an awful idea-- what's it for? Everything I find states things like: Retired aerospace engineer Gerald Black stated that the "LOP-G is useless for supporting human return to the lunar surface and a lunar base." He added that it is not even planned to be used as a rocket fuel depot and that stopping at LOP-G on the way to or from the Moon would serve no useful purpose and it would actually waste rocket fuel. – Magic Octopus Urn Aug 16 at 13:24

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