Planetary Resources, on the other hand, has the right idea. Mining asteroids for platinum and gold right away is not cost-effective. But that’s not the company’s plan; instead, they are taking many small steps to get to asteroids, including launching tiny telescopes to map the Earth and sky, identifying potential targets, upgrading those probes to actually get to asteroids, and then finally prospecting them. And they have plans in place to make money along the way, while increasing human knowledge of space exploration. Their ultimate goal is not to mine asteroids as such, but to create a permanent human foothold in space.
This is the kind of mentality we need. Not a short-term goal, catering to the continuously shifting political whim, but a long-term plan where each step is achievable and sustainable.
Going to the Moon itself has many benefits, and I think in the long run it will prove itself a worthy venture. But if, at first, it’s only to make things easier after we establish ourselves in the asteroids, why then, that’s OK too. Because in the end, we’re in space and we’ll be on the Moon.