If, as planned, the United States eventually establishes a lunar base in 2020, one of the most tempting patches of moonscape is Shackleton Crater at the south pole.
There may be water ice for drinking or converting to rocket fuel, the nearly constant sunlight at the rim is ideal for solar power, and the temperature is relatively bearable.
But perhaps the most compelling reason is something far more primal: surviving the lunar night, which lasts 14 Earth days and can hit temperatures so cold that oxygen turns to liquid.
Amid the many challenges that face America’s bid to send four astronauts to inhabit a moon base for 180 days at a stretch, the lunar night is among the hardest to unravel – and for now, scientists think the rim of Shackleton Crater might be the best place to find solutions.
“If you want to explore the moon, you have to start with the first requirement: surviving a lunar night,” says James Head III, a planetary geologist at Brown University.
Although this is all very interesting, should a country which can’t even manage to provide routine health care (and dental care) to all of its citizens be thinking about establishing a camp on the moon?