Yesterday I came across a featured article at NASA on why we humans should go back to the moon, and an argument for building an outpost there. The article covers all the basics: practice for future deeper space exploration, testing of materials, buildings and systems for extra-terrestial use, further deep-space astronomical studies placed on the dark side of the moon (shielded from earth's interferences), and of course, the real biggie - dispersal of the human species to other worlds to ensure the survival of the species.
Yes, it's a topic that borders on the fantastic, the unimaginable. Humans living somewhere other than Earth. It can almost sound paranoid. But you know, it's not sounding all that crazy anymore. Even if Earth never gets hit by a giant meteor, or never has some crazy dictator start a nuclear war and kill off the population, or never has any disaster of epic proportions, it just wouldn't be smart of us to not try to spread out to insure against calamity.
Of course, if anything catastrophic happened to Earth, a lunar outpost couldn't survive long unless some serious work had been accomplished as far as making it viable for independence. This would mean the ability to grow food and make water. Not likely on the moon, at least not anytime soon. The first industrious task is likely to be focused on mining helium 3, while the more intellectual strategies will focus on establishing science outposts for experiments, importantly including those attempting cultivation and solving the water resource problem.
But with all the practice and the things we would learn there, the next step could be Mars. And maybe by then we will have figured out water production and farming. And if we aren't motivated to attempt to live on other planets for our species' survival, then at least to satisfy our innate urge to explore, learn and discover.
It may be hundreds of years before we can figure out how to leave our solar system - at this moment it seems like we never will - but with each step we take, we learn. And I have a small glimmer of hope that we will someday unlock the secret to (relatively fast) interstellar travel and deep space travelers' sustainability.