NASA’s idea for a space station in lunar orbit takes humanity nowhere
Ethan Siegel

The answer lies in your first bullet point. NASA and Congress are taking a “hardware”-first approach, with the focus first and foremost on preserving the SLS program** (and the associated jobs and contracts in politically connected states and NASA centers), and only after that trying to figure out what to use it for when they’re not willing to expand NASA’s budget. I guess maybe they can afford a lunar orbiting station, with foreign assistance.

It’s both the original sin and salvation of NASA. People forget that public support for the Apollo Program in the 1960s was pretty tepid in polls (it never crossed 50% aside from the month of the Apollo 11 landing), so the leadership and supporters in Congress buttressed it by distributing the contracts and construction to politically important states.

** This is also why NASA ultimately went with a rehash of Shuttle-era solid rocket hardware, even though they toyed with the idea of different approaches (including a heavilyimproved Saturn V-inspired descendant rocket).

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