If you’re like me, you’re rather disappointed with The United States’ space program. Not only is government funding insufficient to the point that we are bumming rides to the International Space Station from other countries, we seem to have no clear goal in place. Yes, everybody wants to go to Mars, that is the consensus destination, but many experts disagree on whether it is the next logical step. Do we send humans to Mars, or first establish a base on the Moon?

Chris Hadfield posits that not only is it practical to establish a base on the Moon first, but it’s necessary. Organizations like the European Space Agency (ESA), Roscosmos, and the Chinese National Space Agency (CNSA) agree with the astronaut/engineer’s belief that skipping the Moon and going directly to Mars is presumptuous.

A group of NASA scientists have proposed a plan to establish a colony on the Moon by 2020. The plan, included in a group of journal articles, would only cost the US $10 billion. That may sound like significant amount of cash, but when compared to the Apollo program, which would have cost $150 billion by today’s standards, it’s really a steal. The discounted price is due to new innovations and technologies, and might be project that the country could get behind (you know, besides a giant wall). Establishing a Moon base would be a figurative and literal launching point for future missions to other destination in our solar system.

“My interest is not the Moon. To me the Moon is as dull as a ball of concrete,” said NASA astrobiologist Chris Kay. “But we’re not going to have a research base on Mars until we can learn how to do it on the Moon first. The Moon provides a blueprint to Mars.”

It may be true that a moon base makes sense for future missions, but that would once again push a trip to Mars further away. There are plenty of qualified people ready to blast off to Mars today. Establishing a base on the moon seems an eventuality, but sending humans to Mars is an achievement that has been delayed for too long.