Nasa claims we need a moonbase to launch missions to Mars. This makes sense and would be a good staging place to initiate long range space travel. The tourist possibilities are great also.
Slate says we do not have a need for a moonbase and are going to build it then decide what to do with it.
Coming under a presidency whose slogan might be “No Price Too High To Accomplish Nothing,” the idea of a permanent, crewed moon base nevertheless takes the cake for preposterousness. [Source]
Frankly I think the real reason for the moonbase is military. No one will say that because the public would cry foul. With China planning to orbit the moon…er, in 2006 and India planning on landing on the moon by 2020, it becomes self-evident that one of the countries is going to lay a claim to the moon. Whichever country establishes a base on the moon first will control the moon because nothing else will be able to be built on the moon after that without the first country’s consent. Just imagine you have built a base on the moon, learned your lessons about decompression, managing gravity, fueling, supplying and so forth. You have a presence and a small contingent of armed soldiers. Now someone else tries to build a base from scratch. They could not possibly defend their efforts from a well trained group of soldiers intent on demolition and learn the lessons to successfully build their base. Also, current military based satellites can easily be disabled or destroyed. A moonbase would be more difficult to attack and would make a far more stable launching platform for earthbound missiles.
In 1968, Stanley Kubrick had the right vision for a moonbase.