The Moon landings in the 1960s happened largely, if not entirely, because of Kennedy's mandate. Although Apollo started before his famous speech, it was an expensive endeavour which could have been scaled back or canceled entirely if not for what it meant in the cold war context of the time.

What, if anything at all, is the motivation for putting humans on the Moon again (in the next 10 years or so)?

Are there any resources on the Moon actually worth sending back to the Earth, or is anything the Moon could offer already available on Earth at lower cost, effort, and risk?

Is it being viewed as a tourist destination (obviously for people with a LOT of money)?

Is there a need for a renewed political statement, just like in the 1960s?

Are there other benefits, such as a better place to do astronomy, clear of atmosphere, light pollution and radio interference, and if so, does it require human presence?

  • $\begingroup$ A articulate proponent of human outposts on the moon is Dr. Paul Spudis. You might find this paper of his interesting spudislunarresources.com/Bibliography/p/102.pdf and browsing his website might interest you too. spudislunarresources.com $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2018 at 0:07
  • $\begingroup$ There is also the question of how far into the future you are thinking. To me, the case for people on the Moon boils down to it being the best first place to put people beyond Earth in the solar system. Then, the question of when that makes sense boils down to how soon after the investment it pays off, and what counts as 'paying off'. $\endgroup$
    – kim holder
    Mar 4, 2018 at 0:36
  • $\begingroup$ This is about the "back to the Moon" aspect of Trump's space policy directive, and the economic, scientific, or political benefits, if any, that could be reasonably expected. $\endgroup$
    – Anthony X
    Mar 4, 2018 at 2:14
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The moon landings were more a way of showcasing missiles, and technological prowess. It was a way of making space about science and not war, while still showing things that could be used for war. Boosters, guidance, computers etc. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2018 at 4:25
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AnthonyX the issue remains the same, though. Settling space will undoubtedly have tremendous payoffs - eventually. It's only a matter of how much investment we are willing to make, and how long we are willing to wait, before there is net profit. That issue definitely extends far beyond what any one government could do in the space of 4 or even 8 years. $\endgroup$
    – kim holder
    Mar 4, 2018 at 18:46

1 Answer 1


There are some reasons for returning humans to the Moon. They could further the exploration started by the Apollo crews and they could help with construction and maintenance of lunar installations. But thats about it.

The far side of the Moon presents an ideal location for astronomy being shielded from almost all human radio traffic. But such a mission could probably be automated.

Although samples returned from the Moon by Apollo have answered many questions concerning the makeup of the Moon and its history, there remains much to learn. Humans would be helpful in such a mission.

Allegedly ISRU on the Moon might be of use in providing propellant for space missions more cheaply than if supplied from Earth. This is debatable and in my opinion doubtful in the near term at least.

Recovery of oxygen from lunar regolith would require very high temperatures and use large amounts of power. Loading of large quantities of regolith into reactors and disposal of slag would not be trivial operations. It might be possible to make use of lunar polar water deposits, but the accessibility of these deposits is not entirely clear and they are located away from sources of solar power.

Even if propellants could be manufactured on the lunar surface they would suffer from significant overhead costs. All propellants generated would need to be lifted off of the surface using propellant in the process. The transfer vehicles would need to be returned to and landed back on the Moon also using propellants. Significant amounts of equipment such as solar arrays, tractors, habitats, furnaces and processing plants would be required. These would use propellant when landed on the surface and would probably require human intervention in their set up and maintenance using even more propellant.

The Moon has also been proposed as a suitable training ground for future Mars missions, but is likely to be of limited value in this respect. Mars has a 24 hour day, the Moon has a 336 hour day, Mars has an atmosphere, and the Moon has none. ISRU requirements would be very different on the Moon compared to Mars etc.

  • $\begingroup$ I have edited the answer $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Mar 5, 2018 at 20:50

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.