One of the most aggravating arguments against going back to the moon was expressed by then President Barack Obama in his now infamous April 15, 2010, speech at the Kennedy Space Center. “We've been there before. Buzz has been there. There's a lot more of space to explore, and a lot more to learn when we do.” Every lunar and planetary scientist who heard that had to have groaned in exasperation. In fact, there is a lot more of the moon to explore and a lot more to learn about it, as Popular Science points out. The Apollo astronauts only landed on tiny portions of Earth’s nearest neighbor close to its equator.

The moon is a geologist’s dream

Unlike Earth, the moon has not been subjected to weather, vegetation, and tectonic activity. Those facts mean that the Lunar Surface contains the geologic record of that period toward the beginning of the Solar System when the Earth and moon were being bombarded by meteors and asteroids. A systematic study of the moon will provide insights into how the solar system was first formed. Future exploration will occur on the lunar far side and at the poles, untouched by astronauts or robots.

Prospecting for resources

The original Apollo expeditions concentrated on retrieving samples for scientific analysis, something that is happening to this day. Future missions, especially by private companies, will look at lunar resources that could be extracted and used.

Water, much of it trapped as ice at the lunar poles, is of particular interest. Water can be used to sustain future lunar colonists. It can also be refined into rocket propellant, which would turn the moon into a refueling station that will, in turn, open up the solar system to further exploration. The path to Mars pretty much resides through the moon.

The moon as a platform for astronomy

The moon would also make an excellent platform for space-based telescopes. While telescopes in free space such as the Hubble have been a boon for astronomy, the moon provides a solid anchor for even larger observatories and a lack of an atmosphere or clouds. A radio telescope on the far side of the moon would be blocked from the electromagnetic noise coming from Earth that includes everything from television signals to cell phones.

Going back to the moon for science

A number of reasons exist for going back to the moon, including facilitating commerce, forging ties of international cooperation, and enhancing national prestige. However, good, old-fashioned science is also one of the main justifications for putting the first footprints on the lunar soil in almost 50 years.