Way back on 12 September 1962 JFK announced to the world that the US was going to put someone on the Moon by the end of the decade, and they did and kept doing it until 1972. Unfortunately no one has been back since, luckily the stuff that was dropped off by the US is probably still in good condition – not that anyone would want to disturb such historically important sites.
Apollo 17 Lunar Buggy, NASA
So the lunar landings happened, then Skylab, then the shuttles, then the ISS with Voyager and a bunch of rovers in between – but no more landings on the Moon, just a few probes to take some nice snaps and do a bit of science. Then in 2007 fourteen governments all decided that space exploration was a good thing and they should cooperate so they came up with Global Exploration Strategy: The Framework for Coordination for peaceful collaboration on space exploration. This agreement established the International Space Exploration Coordination Group (ISECG). The strategy looked at three immediate goals, the first was to deflect a near Earth asteroid, next was to conduct extended crew duration missions in lunar vicinity and finally sending humans to the Lunar surface. These goals were seen as contributing to the ultimate goal of Mars mission readiness.
Then in 2008 the US President, Barack Obama announced that the US would conduct a manned Moon mission in the 2020s as a precursor to going to Mars. But by 2010 Obama and the administration had changed their minds and decided that they would build a heavy lift rocket with a view towards going to Mars, not the Moon. This was elaborated on further, later in the administration, by saying that the US would go beyond the Moon in a manned mission to an asteroid.
US President, Barack Obama (Wikipedia)
Now fast forward to today (12 Dec) and the new US President, Donald Trump, signed a directive outlining a new policy direction for the US space programme to return to the Moon, then off to Mars and beyond. Importantly the new directive recognises the increasing roll that the private sector will play in helping NASA return to the Moon and eventually go to Mars. The new policy also ends the Obama policy of sending humans to an asteroid. So what will we see with this reinvigorated approach to manned space exploration? Well, we might see an acceleration to the SLS programme and other related projects and we may also see more public/private partnerships like the SpaceX cargo runs to the ISS. Will it mean Mr Musk will send his Tesla Roadster to the Moon, probably not, but some other similar entrepreneur may be ready to help NASA get there.
US President, Donald Trump signing the Directive (NASA).