Why Return to the Moon?
Three days away and as accessible as GEO
Alien yet familiar; Earth is visible to crew and TV audiences
Moon can be reached with existing or derived launch systems
A natural laboratory for planetary science
A platform to observe the universe
A unique and interesting environment
An inspiring place to learn to live and work in space
A natural laboratory of planetary processes and history and a platform to observe the universe
A source of materials and energy
Transport systems to the Moon can also access GEO, cis-lunar, Earth-Sun Lagrangians, and some asteroids
Retirement of risk to future planetary missions can be acquired through experience and testing with lunar missions
Development of lunar resources will be a major advance in space logistics capability
The Moon is a rocky planetary object, differentiated into crust, mantle, and core. It has a heavily cratered surface; partly flooded by lava flows over 3 billion years ago. Since then, the surface has remained unaltered except for impacts by comets and asteroids, grinding up surface into chaotic upper layer of debris (regolith). Regolith is easily accessed and processed; likely feedstock for resource extraction. Billions of years of the Sun's interaction with the regolith has also deposited and induced useful volatiles.
The Value of Lunar Resources - Materials on the Moon can be processed to make hydrogen and oxygen for use on the Moon and for export to Earth- Moon (cislunar) space. Propellant produced on the Moon can make travel within and through cislunar space routine. This eventuality will completely change the spaceflight paradigm.
Materials on the Moon
Bulk regolith (soil) has many uses as a building material
Rocks and soils have common compositions; basaltic (Fe-rich; maria) and feldspathic (Alrich; highlands)
Solar wind gases implanted onto dust grains; typical H2 concentration ~ 50-100 ppm
Apollo 15, 16, and 17 drill cores suggest these concentrations hold to depths of 2 m or more
Energy on the Moon
Solar illumination lasts 14 days at lunar equator; extended Sun visibility near poles
Solar 3He also implanted on dust grains at ~20 ppb concentrations; may ultimately be used as fusion energy source