The death of astronaut Neil Armstrong (see Nature 489, 368; 2012) reminds us that, 43 years after he set foot on the Moon, the satellite is still a hot target.
It is the best and most accessible place in the Solar System for robotic and human assets to address fundamentally important scientific questions while expanding our technological capabilities. Most of the Moon remains unexplored: we have never been to its far side, or to its polar regions.
In the last year of his life, Armstrong told a committee appointed by the US Congress that the larger human-exploration goals lie beyond low Earth orbit, namely: “Luna, the lunar Lagrangian points, Mars and its natural satellites, and near-Earth objects including meteoroids, comets and asteroids”. He went on: “Last year I testified to this committee on the rationale for selecting Luna and its environs as the preferred initial option for America's exploration beyond Earth orbit. All that I have learned in the past year has just reinforced that opinion.”
Let's hear and act on those words. Rather than exploring new options, we should begin building the hardware, selecting the landing sites, training the crews and planning the details of missions that take us to the Moon and a future of new discoveries.
D.A.K. has received NASA support for lunar science and for asteroid, Mars and other types of planetary research. J.O.B. and D.B.J.B. have received support for lunar science and other types of research. None currently has lunar-related human-exploration proposals under consideration.