Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the Moon in 1969. A few more followed in their footsteps. The purpose of these trips were to give the United States the honor of being first on the Moon. The only scientist to walk on the Moon, geologist Harrison Schmitt, was on the last flight. From 1972 up to today, no human has walked on the Moon. Robotic probes have flown around, crashed, and roomed around on the surface but humanities attention has been elsewhere. NASA and other space agencies have played scientific games on space stations, launched probes to other planets and into deep space, and been accused by politicians and the public for wasting money.
The best minds are right now torn between a Moon base or a manned Mars mission. They offer no reason but to say we went. If they win with that arguement these missions will suffer the fate of Apollo and the International Space Station: praised then abandoned.
The only way humanity will return to the Moon and stay is to follow in the footsteps of the Chinese. The Chinese Lunar Program (publicity website by China Daily) is headed by the geologist Ouyang Ziyuan. Ziyuan knows the Moon is rich in iron and the nuclear fuel Helium 3, something that is rare on Earth. Ziyuan has the full blessing of the People's Republic of China to create a exploration program that will eventually lead to full scale mining with a population on the Moon. This puts China firmly on the path of other great explorer powers such as Rome, Spain, and the United Kingdom who's drive for geographic exploration was fueled not by a "we traveled for traveling sake" but for resources.
The rest of the world will then follow like all the other powers who went on explorations. Envy led the Portuguese to shift from Africa to the New World and the Americans to follow the Russians into space. It will also drag the rest of the world to the Moon, Mars, and the stars.