Cowards Return to the Moon?
"Moon First" advocates ought to expect the public to push back when personal benefit or institutional inertia leads them to claim humans should return to the moon in order to test the safety of Martian hardware.
Pressure, gravity, and temperature differences will require uniquely dedicated equipment for each locale. We have wasted 4 decades languishing in LEO. Despite this generational disaster we have learned to cooperate with international partners and many astronauts have spent more time in space than would be required during a 180 day flight to Mars. It is time to go to Mars. Now. Directly.
Simulation of exact Martian thermal, atmospheric, and solar conditions in chilled vacuum chambers on Earth will provide more realistic evaluation of Martian architectures than expensive, unnecessarily dangerous "Martian ISRU practice" on the moon.
A lunar facility similar to an Antarctic research base in size and purpose can be shut down -- permanently. We are one populist scientifically-illiterate President away from termination of human spaceflight altogether. Mars missions inherently involve extended stays on Mars. There will be no such thing as a "flags and footprints" mission to Mars. When humans go to Mars we will establish a permanent settlement on Mars by the very nature of such an exploration program. Following upon and using Martian exploration systems and hardware will be free enterprise development of Near Earth Asteroids, thereby making humankind a spacefaring species forever, permanently.
We can return to the moon after establishing a settlement on Mars. Near Earth Asteroids only a week or two away from Earth offer vastly superior concentration of resources with far less demanding Delta V than similar resources sifted from asteroid debris on the Lunar surface. Future maintenance of GEO satellites and interplanetary craft will be accomplished using asteroid fragments collected at L1.
With substantial Platinum Group Metals and volatiles at L1, Lunar resources will be irrelevant.
If a massive PGM boulder pushed off the surface of a Near Earth Asteroid were at L1 then lunar resources would be irrelevant to anything we do in space, anywhere -- even, ironically, on the moon. We would actually mine the asteroid fragment at L1 for resources to be used on the moon. LOL! That's funny!
Space exploration is heroic. Returning a handful of persons to a facility similar to an "Antarctic Research Base on the Moon" -- only two days from Maui -- is not heroic. NASA must be on the cutting edge of space exploration, enabling private enterprise to follow with commerce. Safety considerations for exploration should NEVER be a mission determining factor.
While we do not feel entitled to "Mars-in-My-Lifetime" and while we look forward to spacefaring becoming a common everyday experience, for everyone, the purpose of NASA must always be to achieve the difficult, demanding, unending goal of expanding our space frontier.
The moon is a Siren's Call, a trap for low-brow unambitious engineers from which escape for all of humanity might take decades -- if not centuries. Enabling humans to become permanently spacefaring through asteroid development and Martian exploration is too important a goal to be distracted from -- particularly by impossible to justify, cowardly, lunar programs. There is important science to be accomplished on the moon, eventually ...there is important science to be accomplished at the bottom of the Marianas Trench, also -- neither destination should prevent ambitious engineers from settling Mars. Now.
Near Earth Asteroids?
It would make sense for NASA to focus solely upon Mars, allowing entrepreneurs to hitchhike to asteroids.
"Traitors Return to Earth"?
Far Side Radio Telescope?
Additional FAQs are answered on the Mars Society's FAQ, here: http://www.marssociety.org/portal/c/faq