This year NASA announced its plan to send astronauts to the Moon by 2024 .

Astronauts have, of course, been to the lunar surface before, but NASA's Artemis mission is preparing to send humans to an area of the Moon that has never been visited before: The lunar South Pole.

In a webinar titled The Next Giant Leap: Back to the Moon and On to Mars, a reader asked:

“What’s the reason for choosing to land at the South Pole?"

Read the edited response below from Rob Chambers, Director of Human Spaceflight Strategy and Business Development for NASA contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

Chambers is currently working on the Orion spacecraft that will send astronauts to the Moon.

Rob Chambers: All of the Apollo landings were done near the equator, in somewhat similar conditions, in the sense that all of the landings took place on the near side. The near side does get dark, but it always faces the Earth. That means it has always been shadowed from craters, from impacts, because the Earth is in the way of oncoming asteroids and meteorites. The near side is also a little bit more homogeneous in terms of the geological, or selenological, history. If you go down to the poles, the number-one answer we’ll all give you within industry is water.

Water is the kind of "oil" of exploration. You can drink it. You can crack it for fuel – hydrogen and oxygen are the best propellants. And you can obviously breathe the oxygen. In terms of living off the land, the ISRU , the pole is a great place. The reason for this is that there are shadowed craters at the pole that never get sunlight, unlike the equator where everything gets lit up by the Sun at least once throughout the month.

The south pole location hasn’t been shielded from bombardment. The bombardment state of the Moon tells us a lot about the state of the solar-system evolution, for example, and where the Moon came from and where it’s going. That affects, to be honest, every single one of us on this planet.

What do you think? Share your comments and questions below.