Humanity’s Return To The Moon And The Prospect Of South Pole Moon Bases

The last time that a human set foot on the Moon, it was December 1972 — when the crew of the Apollo 17 mission spent a few days on the surface before returning to Earth. Since then only unmanned probes have either touched down on the lunar surface or entered orbit to take snapshots and perform measurements.

But after years of false starts, there are finally new plans on the table which would see humans return to the Moon. Not just to visit, but with the goal of establishing a permanent presence on the lunar surface. What exactly has changed that the world went from space fever in the 1960s to tepid interest in anything beyond LEO for the past fifty years, to the renewed interest today?

Part of the reason at least appears to be an increasing interest in mineable resources on the Moon, along with the potential of manufacturing in a low gravity environment, and as a jumping-off point for missions to planets beyond Earth, such as Mars and Venus. Even with 1960s technology, the Moon is after all only a few days away from launch to landing, and we know that the lunar surface is rich in silicon dioxide, aluminium oxide as well as other metals and significant amounts of helium-3, enabling in-situ resource utilization.

Current and upcoming Moon missions focus on exploring the lunar south pole in particular, with frozen water presumed to exist in deep craters at both poles. All of which raises the question of we may truly see lunar-based colonies and factories pop up on the Moon this time, or are we merely seeing a repeat of last century?

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