When it comes to planetary destinations within our star system, the two loudest voices within the space community are the Moon first crowd and the Mars Direct group.

While both groups often lay out strong opinions as to why their white or red world should take priority, lunar lovers will rejoice in the fact that a notable billionaire is advocating Earth’s nearest neighbor first, along with another influential figure.

“The moon is the perfect ground to get our feet wet for Mars,” said space entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, which is aiming to put private space station modules in Earth orbit.

In fact, our chances of making it to Mars could ride on whether we go back to the moon first, proponents say.

“The moon is the only logical first destination,” said William Pomerantz, senior director of space prizes at the X Prize Foundation. “It only makes sense to use the moon as a testing ground and proving ground and staging ground for missions to Mars and other parts of the solar system.” (Space.com)

Other advocates mentioned the Moon as a priority due to not only its proximity (as it’s 3 days away via rockets vs 6 months for Mars), but also due to the enormous amount of rare earth metals within its soil (not to mention silver too), as well as the holy grail of space advocates, helium-3.

The Moon also boasts millions of gallons of ice water, making the cratered barren world livable for future settlers and industrial miners.

Excusing all of these arguments, perhaps the greatest reason for visiting the Moon before Mars can be summed up in one word: cost.

Although Mars is much more aesthetic to the eyes, visiting the red planet is currently beyond the budget of any terrestrial government, which might explain why most space faring nations like China are intent on visiting Earth little sister instead of the distant crimson world.

While humans will eventually visit and conquer the red planet in the future, unless someone has a few hundred billion dollars lying around, it looks like humanity will be greeting Luna first on their quest to conquer the cosmos.

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