“Before we put boots on the ground at the poles, we urgently need a robotic water ice prospecting mission to the lunar poles,” Burns said. “We don’t understand what the water ice looks like below the surface. Is it mixed mixed finely with the lunar regolith or is it blocks of ice? Both are theoretically possible, but it would require very different techniques to extract.”
The Trump administration’s plan to send astronauts to the lunar south pole is certainly bold, but before we make the “next giant leap” it might be a good idea to figure out what we’re going to do once we get there.
The US vice president's speech is linked in this answer.
As you will hear, in these recommendations, we will call on NASA not just to adopt new policies but to embrace a new mindset. That begins with setting bold goals and staying on schedule. To reach the Moon in the next five years, we must select our destinations now. NASA already knows that the lunar South Pole holds great scientific, economic, and strategic value. But now it’s time to commit to go there.
And today, the National Space Council will recommend that when the first American astronauts return to the lunar surface, that they will take their first steps on the Moon’s South Pole. (Applause.)
[...]And in this century, we’re going back to the Moon with new ambitions, not just to travel there, not just to develop technologies there, but also to mine oxygen from lunar rocks that will refuel our ships; to use nuclear power to extract water from the permanently shadowed craters of the South Pole; and to fly on a new generation of spacecraft that will enable us to reach Mars not in years but in months.
The iconic 1962 We choose to go to the Moon speech includes:
We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.
Question: What would be the scientific, practical, or business utility of sending astronauts to the Moon's south pole beyond what a series of robotic missions could do at far lower cost? Is it an intangible, such as because it is hard or are there things the astronauts could do at the south pole that couldn't be done by robotic missions?