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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

Report: Pentagon watchdog finds Ronny Jackson drank on duty and harassed staff

Rep. Ronny Jackson walking through the Canon Tunnel to the U.S. Capitol in January. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) allegedly made "sexual and denigrating" comments about a female staffer, drank alcohol and took sleeping medication while working as White House physician, according to an official report obtained by CNN Tuesday night.

Driving the news: The Department of Defense inspector general's report stems from a years-long investigation. Jackson has called the allegations "false and fabricated."

DOJ pressed to enforce Al Jazeera foreign agent ruling

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Justice Department is being pressed to enforce its own demand that the U.S. arm of Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera register as a foreign agent.

Why it matters: The launch of Al Jazeera's new right-of-center U.S. media venture, Rightly, has refocused attention on the media company's alleged links to Doha, and DOJ's efforts to crack down on media outlets viewed as foreign interest mouthpieces.

Poll: Immigration is America's most-polarizing issue

Data: The American Aspirations Index/Populace; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Immigration was found to be the most polarizing issue in America based on new polling from Populace.

Why it matters: Americans have surprisingly similar priorities for the U.S., but immigration stands out as one of the few issues with clear partisan differences. It underscores the challenge for advocates and lawmakers hoping to pass immigration reform in the coming weeks amid narrow margins in Congress.