The claim was made by Christopher Wanjek, a science writer who authored ‘Spacefarers: How Humans Will Settle the Moon, Mars, and Beyond’.
NASA has a target, set by the Trump administration, of returning humans to the Moon in 2024 via its Artemis Program.
When this is complete NASA hopes to launched crewed missions to Mars in the 2030s.
However Mr Wanjek cast doubt on the 2024 deadline and suggested commercial space hotels are likely to be the next big step in increasing the human presence in space.
Speaking to Express.co.uk he said: “Before the Moon we’re going to be in low Earth orbit.
“That’s where a lot of money’s going to be made in terms of space hotelling.
“We’ll have crewed space hotels and space tourism definitely within this decade.
“The Moon base I don’t think’s going to happen this decade.
“This plan to get humans back to the Moon by 2024 is ill-fated. It was a bad idea to begin with and now with the pandemic it’s certainly not going to happen. What you want to do, and what NASA was planning on doing, is slowly get back there by setting up an infrastructure. Send some robots, map out the area, lay down some infrastructure.
“We’re going to learn nothing by sending a couple of humans there to do nothing again and waste a lot of money. Getting people on the Moon by 2024 is actually going to hinder our ability to have a base there by the end of this decade.”
A number of wealthy individuals have already paid large sums to be taken into space, beginning with American businessman Dennis Tito who became the first fee-paying space tourist when he visited the International Space Station onboard a Russian spacecraft in 2001.
Several companies, including Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin, are currently developing vehicles for sub-orbital space tourism.
Mr Wanjek argued that commercial opportunities, as well as the ongoing scientific endeavours, will play a big role in increasing the human presence in space.
He explained: “The money makers would be mining, if it’s feasible, and tourism which is probably more feasible than mining.
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“Everything works in parallel. You get more people interested in space by launching people up into low Earth orbit to go into perhaps an expandable space hotel.
“As more and more people get involved the cost is surely going to come down and that means even more people will be able to get up there.”
In terms of mining opportunities Mr Wanjek noted the Moon has iron and silicone deposits, that could be used for building, as well as water which could be broken down into hydrogen and oxygen to help make rocket fuel.
He also suggested Helium-3, which is scare on Earth but exists in large quantities on the Moon, could provide “the ideal fuel” for nuclear fusion if the technology becomes available.
Mr Wanjek argued there are major advantages to building permanent Moon bases before moving onto Mars and expressed scepticism about NASA’s hope to have the first humans on Mars in the 2030s.
On humans visiting Mars he said: “It’s at least a ten-year endeavour once you start and we’re not even starting now.
“Within ten years impossible, fifteen years maybe if we get our act together the next couple of years.
“I can’t see us being on Mars in any sustainable way before 2040.
“I do think living on the Moon is important before you go to Mars because you can learn a lot of things in a relatively safe distance from Earth. You can evacuate someone in a couple of days.
“And you’re going to have to do the same things. You’re going to create a shelter, create your oxygen, block out the radiation and have some type of atmospheric pressure.
“The same exact things have to be done on Mars and on the Moon so you might as well learn it on the Moon before going off to Mars.”
Currently no country has made a territorial claim on the Moon or any other celestial object.
Mr Wanjek suggested the early fixed human presence on the Moon could be similar to Antarctica, with different countries running their own but mutually supporting bases.
He also expressed excitement about the opportunities space presents to the human species commenting: “In a world of unlimited resources, when you take in the space resources, that opens everything up and suddenly no one is your enemy. Everyone has potential.
“There’s going to be so many more people to have more ideas to get you into this positive cycle of what humans can do and they can tap into these infinite resources of the solar system.
“There’s enough resources in the asteroid rim to support trillions of people. When you think about minerals and oxygen and all the things you need for life, it’s all out there.”
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