Clearly if we don’t go to the Moon with people or machines, there is no way to use the abundant water, metals, and other lunar surface materials to create new capabilities in space. Supporters of the new path suggest instead that we can obtain all the materials we want from near-Earth asteroids
.. in my dreams! Us asteroid mining advocates are a minority who have been swept aside in this debate. Asteroids are a "stepping stone" to Mars, not a destination. As Clark puts it:
As pointed out many times here, the main impetus for the Flexible Path option was simply to have useful and interesting in-space missions underway while landing and surface systems for Moon and/or Mars were in development.
Spudis also makes good points about the difficulty of extracting resources from asteroids. This is often cited as justification for human missions. What he doesn't address is the question of gravity requirements, or radiation protection, for humans living long term on the Moon, and how they compare to what is feasible on (or inside) an asteroid. This, to me, suggests that Spudis continues to look at space as the future mines rather than the future homes of humanity (which is admittedly better than the pure "exploration and science" mindset of other people).
I do note however that Spudis has finally adopted teleoperated robots on the Moon as his own idea.
In terms of closeness, it takes 3 seconds for a radio signal traveling at the speed of light to go the Moon and back. This makes the remote, telepresence operation of lunar robots from Earth feasible.
Maybe eventually he'll stop being a human spaceflight advocate for a while and try to get some influence over the currently exploration-and-science directed robotic program for the Moon..
I look forward to that day.