NASA’s new overarching goal should be to lead the joint public-private development and deployment of space-based solar power as a baseload power source. It’s a goal that would encompass many other technologies (non-rocket launch methods, AI-based robotic assembly in space, mining of lunar and NEO resources, lunar base operations, energy conversion and transmission methods, etc.) and inspire young people get advanced educations and be a part of making the planet a better place for everyone, much like the Apollo program did.
The unique aspect of NASA adopting space-based solar power as an overarching goal is that the long-term result would be a revenue positive system owned and operated by the United States of America. We would become a net exporter of clean, virtually unlimited energy.
Prohibitive launch costs are cited as the primary roadblock to space-based solar power today. Let’s come up with an elegant solution, such as a mass driver launch system initially powered by terrestrial solar power and eventually powered by the first space-based solar power satellite. It’s a positive upward spiral. The more power available, the more payload put in orbit and assembled into additional satellites resulting in more power available … and repeat. Once such a self-proliferating system harvests more energy than it uses, the excess energy can be directed into existing or new distribution grids.