It is the unanimous consensus of the Committee on the Scientific Context for Exploration of the Moon that the Moon offers profound scientific value. The infrastructure provided by sustained human presence can enable remarkable science opportunities if those opportunities are evaluated and designed into the effort from the outset. While the expense of human exploration cannot likely be justified on the basis of science alone, the committee emphasizes that careful attention to science opportunity is very much in the interest of a stable and sustainable lunar program. In the opinion of the committee, a vigorous near-term robotic exploration program providing global access is central to the next phase of scientific exploration of the Moon and is necessary both to prepare for the efficient utilization of human presence and to maintain scientific momentum as this major national program moves forward.
Principal Finding: Lunar activities apply to broad scientific and exploration concerns.
Lunar science as described in this report has much broader implications than simply studying the Moon. For example, a better determination of the lunar impact flux during early solar system history would have profound implications for comprehending the evolution of the solar system, early Earth, and the origin and early evolution of life. A better understanding of the lunar interior would bear on models of planetary formation in general and on the origin of the Earth-Moon system in particular. And exploring the possibly ice-rich lunar poles could reveal important information about the history and distribution of solar system volatiles. Furthermore, although some of the committee’s objectives are focused on lunar-specific questions, one of the basic principles of comparative planetology is that each world studied enables researchers to better understand other worlds, including our own. Improving our understanding of such processes as cratering and volcanism on the Moon will provide valuable points of comparison for these processes on the other terrestrial planets.