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From our Expert Voices conversation on what we could learn from a new human trip to the Moon.

To ensure the greatest returns on the public's investment in space exploration, landing on the Moon shouldn't be an end in itself. Mars remains the most promising destination to establish a long-term human presence and to advance our scientific understanding of life elsewhere.

But landing on Mars, with an atmosphere that can burn up spacecraft on entry, is not the same as the smooth, airless ride of landing on the Moon. And living on a planet that is on average 140 million miles from Earth is certainly not the same as living on on a moon that is a mere (cosmically speaking) 240,000 mile trip.

Fortunately, the Moon provides an opportunity to test and refine the technology needed to reach the Red Planet — we just don't need to land there. Life support, long-distance operations and astronaut health can all be tested in the space around the Moon. NASA could establish a national infrastructure to bootstrap our way to Mars that also supports other countries and commercial companies in their efforts to reach the lunar surface.

The bottom line: NASA is about more than going to the Moon — science, technology and the search for life are all parts of space exploration. We must strategically use precious public funds to push the limits of human knowledge while paving the way for others to follow.

Other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
2 hours ago - World

How Biden might tackle the Iran deal

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Four more years of President Trump would almost certainly kill the Iran nuclear deal — but the election of Joe Biden wouldn’t necessarily save it.

The big picture: Rescuing the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is near the top of Biden's foreign policy priority list. He says he'd re-enter the deal once Iran returns to compliance, and use it as the basis on which to negotiate a broader and longer-lasting deal with Iran.

Kamala Harris, the new left's insider

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images     

Progressive leaders see Sen. Kamala Harris, if she's elected vice president, as their conduit to a post-Biden Democratic Party where the power will be in younger, more diverse and more liberal hands.

  • Why it matters: The party's rising left sees Harris as the best hope for penetrating Joe Biden's older, largely white inner circle.

If Biden wins, Harris will become the first woman, first Black American and first Indian American to serve as a U.S. vice president — and would instantly be seen as the first in line for the presidency should Biden decide against seeking a second term.

Updated 10 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day — U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record.
  2. Politics: States beg for Warp Speed billions.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.