Why should the Moon be the next target of exploration? NASA has already sent manned missions to the Moon, and the astronauts have already brought back to Earth many pounds of rocks from our nearest orbiting neighbor. In fact, scientists are still studying those rocks from decades ago. So why go back?
There are many good reasons to choose the Moon for exploration. Some of those reasons are scientific in nature, and some have the advantage of establishing a base for further planetary exploration. Other reasons are economic in nature, and the fact of the matter is that the Moon holds a tremendous amount of minerals that can be utilized not only for economic reasons, but to manufacture rocket fuel for further exploration into the solar system.
Moon exploration can hold the key to reducing the cost of spaceflight. The reason? Gravity, or the lack of it for a start. The Moon has one-sixth the gravity of the Earth, and launching spacecraft from the Moon means less power is necessary to reach further out into space. So exploring the Moon to establish a manned base makes sense. In fact, it has been discovered that the Moon holds water in its craters. The Shackleton crater near the Moon’s south pole has enough water in it to satisfy the needs of a manned Moon base. This water has been left on the moon from space debris that has impacted there, such as asteroids and comets. Some of these craters are shielded from the sun, thereby containing plenty of frozen water. That fact in and of itself is an exciting and practical reason for further Moon exploration.
Establishing a manned Moon base has a very big scientific benefit. One of those scientific benefits is to build an observatory with powerful telescopes that can exceed even the Hubble’s reach into the universe. The Moon has no atmosphere to speak of, and the lack of one means a clear view deep into the universe. Also, there is no light pollution from cities that can cloud the view. So this reason is a powerful technological one for establishing a manned base on the Moon.
Another valid reason for further Moon exploration is the minerals that the Moon contains. Scientists are excited about the amount of Helium-3 that the Moon contains. Helium-3 is sought after for nuclear fuel, and it’s presence is very rare on Earth. This fuel has the potential to deliver enormous amounts of power, and the Moon has plenty of it contained in the regolith, or Moon dust. In fact, this not only could be used to power the manned base on the Moon, but could power future spacecraft, and even a small amount can be shipped back to Earth to power its cities.
When the manned landings back in late 1969 and the early 1970’s happened, the astronauts barely scraped the surface of Moon exploration. They were limited with a lack of time and resources due to the technology of that era. But there have been terrific advancements since then, and it’s high time that NASA and/or private space research companies give the Moon another long, hard, look at further exploration.