The best location for a permanently occupied settlement would be the south pole. The presence of water ice in the permanent darkness of the 12 mile wide Shackleton crater would provide life-sustaining resources for centuries or more.
|Shackleton crater, on the Moon's south pole|
And on the crater's rim there is almost permanent sunlight, the ideal location for arrays of solar panels to be erected, providing a continuous supply of energy. The lunar north pole offers similar benefits.
|A lunar habitat, 'printed' by robots using Moon dust and a binding agent - ESA|
From those polar locations manned missions to Mars and the outer solar system could be more easily launched. Crews for such missions, born and brought up in such a low gravity environment, would be ideally suited to the environments on the outer planets' moons, and the larger asteroids. Indeed, despite the ethical and moral questions that would arise, it is highly desirable start a breeding human colony in such a low gravity environment as soon as possible so that such crews are available. The crew would not only be physically adapted to their environment, but mentally adapted, too. They would be used to living in confined environments, and they would not miss the wide open spaces of Earth, or its comforts.
Another great benefit would be found on the far side of the Moon. It is the ideal place to build observatories that are shielded from the radio emissions of Earth, and a great place to monitor the activities of our future distant colonies.
|Radio Observatory on the Moon's far side|
And, of course, the far side of the moon, beyond site of Earth-bound observatories, is home to what seem to be some extra-terrestrial artifacts, the most notable of which appears to be a huge spaceship, one that was apparently visited during the secret Apollo 20 mission. Such artifacts need to be explored in great detail.
|Huge alien spaceship on the Moon's far side|
There is the potential to gain valuable knowledge about the technology used to reach our solar-system, and to start a reverse-engineering effort that could save us centuries in the development of interstellar propulsion, life-support and even artificial gravity systems.
The Moon is easily accessible - just a few days travel away. It has great natural resources. We have the technology available now to build colonies there, and have had for decades.
We should already have a thriving population permanently based on the Moon, something like in the image below.
|A large Moon colony, something we could already have achieved|
Those that had been born into such a colony would already have started preparations to colonise Mars.
President Nixon made a major mistake in the 1972 by backing the space shuttle over the then proposed manned mission to Mars, which would have seen humans walk on the red planet by the mid 1980s. What he should have done was back further manned exploration of the Moon first, with the goal of setting up a permanent base by the late 1970s, from which the manned exploration of deeper space could be more easily achieved. It is from there that the manned Mars mission should have been launched in the 1980s. The shortsightedness and ignorance of many at the heights of political power is quite astonishing when all the missed opportunities are considered.
No more time can be wasted. A serious and major international effort to colonise the polar regions of the Moon must begin immediately, with the exploration and exploitation of the possible far side extra-terrestrial artifacts and technology, and launch facilities for manned Mars missions, the priority.