Harboring helium-3 withing its crust, the Moon could help "jump start" our journey into the cosmos financially, if not pay for itself by selling future space stations oxygen via its lunar rocks.
Even though the Moon may benefit our species tremendously, visiting Mars may be harder to justify economically.
For corporations, stock holders may not see the value in visiting the red planet for short term gains (or profits). Meanwhile tax payers may grumble at politicians spending money on another world without seeing any immediate benefits towards Earth.
Such a scenario could easily lead towards humanity delaying (or even skipping) Mars, opting instead to visit the asteroid belt in order to harvest its precious metals.
While mining the asteroid belt would benefit humanity financially, it may not motivate our species to choose a second home en mass outside of the gravitational influence of Earth.
In order to justify Mars, our species may have to look towards the first "rock" from the sun, Mercury.
Described by some as "A Mini-Earth in Moon's Clothing," the planet Mercury shares a few similarities with Earth's Moon.
Orbiting "recklessly close" towards the surface of the Sun, solar energy on Mercury is about 6 1/2 times greater than that on the Moon (or Earth), making the world a prime location for solar powered satellites.
Its close proximity towards the Sun has a few scientists predicting that its crust may be loaded with helium-3, which would make it an ideal "next step" after humanity is done depleting reserves on the Moon.
Mercury may also have an abundance of metals within its crust as well, which could make it an attractive location for future mining corporations (who may consider asteroid mining too dangerous for their employees).
Despite the fact that this world has a global magnetic field, this sun baked world may not attract a large population due to the fact that it lacks an abundance of water.
While lunar colonists would probably be able to import water from Earth, Mercurian settlers may have to look elsewhere as Earthen gravity could make importing water (not to mention food) from the homeworld very expensive.
Since Mars has an abundance of water (in the form of ice), future Mercurian corporations could easily contract explorers to filter and export this precious liquid "sun-ward," launching a whole new industry on Mars.
This could make Mars economically attractive to future Earthlings, who may consider settling the planet en mass in order to reap the benefits of interplanetary trade.
This ultimately could help push our species towards other promising worlds (such as Callisto, Ganymede and Titan), enabling our species to become a space faring civilization.
Update: Images inserted.
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