Mine on the moon
The concept of mining and the discovery of water on the moon has sparked the interest of the space community. It has been suggested that mining on the moon could end badly because of reasons such as privatization and ulterior motives. Despite these negative consequences that could come of mining on the moon, there is also much to be gained for Earth. According to geological surveys, the moon contains water, Rare-Earth Metals, and Helium-3. The advantages of mining the moon far outweigh the disadvantages. Some advantages of mining and discovering the moon include the possibility of human habitation, launching space missions from the moon and using rare elements (Helium-3 in particular) for future developments in the energy sector. Mining and exploring the moon should become a priority for astronomical organisations.
The 7AM podcast states that “data [had] suggested there was a high likelihood of water ice” in the “permanently shadowed craters” of the moon. A year after these speculations, NASA confirmed that there were “significant ice deposits” on the moon in “…shadowed craters”. For many, this was where the race began. Now that water had been found on the moon, the big question was what to do with it. Water invites the possibility of human habitation on the moon. If humans can inhabit the moon then the resources and elements that need to be studied are right there, at there fingertips. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s infographic How moon mining could work, water can be converted into rocket fuel. The podcast states that water can be split into its element form, hydrogen and oxygen, for rocket fuel. This opens up a literal world of possibilities. Rocket fuel on the moon means that deep space missions can be launched from the moon and not from Earth. In addition to exploring outer space, the moon itself can be explored for rare elements, metals and minerals. The discovery of water on the moon means that humans can survive there and, in the grand scheme of things, this is a step forward in what NASA has described as the “Lunar Gold Rush”.
The moon is home to many elements that are rare on Earth, but can be of use in modern technological developments. One of these elements in Helium-3 (3He). Helium-3 is a gas and, according to ExplainingTheFuture’s article Helium-3 Power Generation, has “the potential to be used as a fuel in future nuclear fusion power plants”. The article also mentions that there is very little Helium-3 on Earth, although there are speculations that there is a significant supply on the moon. There are also Rare Earth Metals (REMs) on the moon that are useful to the Earth. The aforementioned NASA infographic states that these REMs include “the fifteen Lanthanides, as well as Scandium and Yttrium”. Many devices, like computers, phones and medical apparatus are dependent on REMs. The infographic provides an overwhelming statistic that makes moon exploration even more necessary: 90% of the world’s REM supply is produced in China. China’s supply diminishing and running out would be troublesome: because much of our technology relies on China’s supply, our planet is in dire need of another REM source. Elements on the moon, many of which are rare on Earth, will be of great use in modern technology. The world craves development, and with the search and use of extraterrestrial Rare Earth Metals, development is inevitable. This is a gift from the moon. We must accept it and start mining.
The Conversation’s article Mining the moon, explains the intrinsic benefits to be gained from mining and exploring the moon. It talks, of course, about enhancing our knowledge of our planet’s only natural satellite. Our knowledge of the moon and how planets form in general would be nowhere near what it is today if it were not for the lunar missions of the last 60 years. From these research missions, we have gained a plethora of knowledge that we may not have, had we not conducted and launched these missions. The article presses on about why we should carry on with this research. It is suggested that carrying out this research would “yield dramatic increases in our understanding” of the moon. The future guarantees a “new era of lunar exploration”. The moon is but a “stepping stone from which to take our next giant leap”. Lunar exploration and mining has a lot to offer in terms of knowledge and understanding.
Some may suggest that this lunar exploration and mining has no scope because of private companies being increasingly pushy to privatise space activity and the companies having ulterior motives. It is mentioned that some companies are only in this lunar race for the “big money”. Ceridwen Dovey states that companies like these are planning to mine REMs but not to bring them back to Earth. They are planning to mine the moon’s resources to “make further deep space missions happen” to reach “resource rich asteroid belts”. Some people, for instance Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, believe that the world’s first trillionare will be made mining these asteroids. Despite the negative claims made in the podcast, many are still of the firm opinion that the mining and exploration of the moon can be successful, so long as the power is in the right hands. The key to getting this right is not having either the government or a private organization handling this mission alone, but rather a combination. The government should organize the mission (in order to make sure that the mission is being conducted for scientific purposes only and that any benefit from the mission will be the collective benefit of the people of Earth) and a private organization should fund this mission (in order to keep the costs down). It is apparent, that in the right hands, the mining and exploration of the moon can be a success.
Although there are some negatives that could come of the situation, the advantages still far outweigh the disadvantages. Mining and exploring the moon means that new deep space exploration missions can be launched from the moon, REMs can be brought back to Earth for modern technological development and we will have a better understanding of our planet’s only natural satellite. Ultimately, it is evident that mining and exploring the moon is the right thing to do. The moon is the way to go!