Ok, but would not a fully functioning base of operations on our Moon be the first step in a…
Robert Oldershaw

I by no way claim knowledge of how this is done, but my quick search on this topic has pointed out that Mars colonization experiments are simulated in multiple places (Including Earth in some parts). I do not really know the cost/benefit trade-off or the conduciveness of at-least a portion of such experiments to be conducted on Moon is not ruled-out. That said, the inhabitation conditions on Moon is no way close to Mars.