NASA is eyeing the moon as an observational platform from which scientists can gather data on the sun or other celestial bodies.
Steve Clarke, NASA deputy associate administrator for exploration, said such efforts can serve as a step toward developing capabilities to embark on future Mars missions.
Missions to the moon have the potential to collect information about its external surface, such as heat flow, wind strength and atmosphere, Clarke noted. These findings would then be used to design technologies for Mars explorations.
"The strategy is that these will help us prepare for more complex future missions such as: searching for usable resources; building up a seismic network to understand the moon's internal structure; and studying the lunar mineralogy and chemistry to understand the moon's origins," Clarke added.