After watching this downhill slide into mediocrity for years I have to say in regards to space there is no truer maxim than “truth is stranger than fiction.”
There are a short list of guiding principles concerning space exploration that are simply ignored in a bizarro manifestation of collective cognitive dissonance. They are simple truths that for whatever reasons- be they political or ideological or vested interests in some scam- are not acknowledged by the powers that be and completely denied by those who have vested interests in quite different agendas. Here we go:
1. Radiation is square one. Beyond Low Earth Orbit a sustained human presence requires massive radiation shielding. Eugene Parker spelled this out clearly in language the public could understand in 2006. There is no dancing around the minimum of something like a thousand tons of water to shield a small spaceship crew. The NewSpace and Mars zealots go into automatic denial mode over this. They blather every kind of nonsense imaginable to obfuscate on this issue.
2. There is only one practical propulsion system for pushing such massively shielded constructs around the solar system- as spelled out by Freeman Dyson half a century ago- Nuclear Pulse Propulsion using atomic bombs. The eye-roll factor on this one is an order of magnitude greater than 1000 ton radiation shields. Like the space radiation elephant in the room, pulse propulsion is simply verboten in any serious discussion because…..it is. Yet it remains and will remain the only solution to Human Space Flight Beyond Earth and Lunar Orbit for the foreseeable future. And it is incidentally the ideal method of lifting millions of tons off the surface of the Moon.
3. A simple infographic (on page 23 http://www.homepages.ucl.ac.uk/~ucfbiac/Lunar_resources_review_preprint_accepted_manuscript.pdf) depicting the depths of the Earth and Lunar gravity wells shows that bringing water up out of Earth’s gravity well is a non-starter while the Moon is absolutely and without question (as spelled out by the work of Paul Spudis) the very best place to go to get that radiation shielding. Such a graphic representation (which I have cited a couple times in comments here) also clearly shows that LEO is not really space. It is halfway to nowhere despite NewSpace hype. The true boundary of outer space is Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) and this domain is also where the over 100 billion dollars in satellite revenues are to be had.
I could go on but these three, which form what I call the Parker-Dyson-Spudis continuum, are enough to show how divorced from reality we are as a civilization concerning space flight.