Hey Joe – thanks for your question!

Since the U.S. first set foot on the Moon about 50 years ago, six missions returned as part of the Apollo Program. Part of the reason we sent so many astronauts was to collect data on the Moon – and part of that data would be really helpful for any return missions. The next step after proving we could get to the Moon was, logically, proving we could keep humans up there! Unfortunately, the Apollo missions cost a lot of money, and we haven’t been able to fund anything at the same scale since then.

But now, 50 years later, we don’t have to fund the mission, or get to the Moon alone! There are lots of countries that have sent orbiters, landers, and even plants to the Moon including China, Russia, and India. There are even companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX that want to send private missions to the Moon!

These people are interested in the Moon for a few reasons:
1) It’s relatively close! Getting to the Moon takes just a few days (for comparison, going to Mars would take months!).
2) There might be water ice trapped in the polar regions. Humans need water to survive, so if we can access the water ice at the polar regions, then it gives us a good chance at making a sustainable settlement on the Moon.
3) It could help us get to other destinations in our own solar system! Just like we learned a lot about human spaceflight thanks to the years of research done by astronauts and scientists on board the International Space Station, we could learn a lot about long-term space exploration and spaceflight by returning to the Moon. Maybe one day, it’ll help us get to Mars!

But it’s more than that! Space exploration is valuable for a lot of reasons, best summed up by this statement from Dr. Scott Pace, who serves on the National Space Council in the U.S.:

Human space flight is probably the most interdisciplinary
scientific and technical activity that this country can engage
in, much broader than biotech, IT, any of the other particular
fields because you really have all fields have to come together
to pull off a successful mission. It is incredibly, incredibly
hard. But that is where really the benefit is from pushing into
the unknown. So I would say as part of your portfolio of
activities that humans have to be part of it because they do
represent this really challenging interdisciplinary problem
that is really unique. And it should be part of our national
portfolio because there is nothing that replaces the symbolism,
the emotion, the connection that it makes not only to the
American people but also to our partners around the world.

Ad astra, folks!