The moon may offer a great deal of resources. Some of them are known, some are them maybe wait for us to be discover. Can humanity collect, extract and use the lunar resources? Moon mining doesn’t seem as far fetched, but what can the moon really offer and at what cost?
The director of the Center for Space Resources at the Colorado School of Mines (Golden, Colorado), Angel Abbud-Madrid, said that the methods and techniques used for centuries in mining Earth’s resources are the ones at the core for resource exploration on the moon. After a resource is discovered, the drilling process starts, followed by excavation. After this step, extraction of the resources is the next stage. Finally, operations of processing those resources in order to be used constitute the last step, from exploring to delivering the resources raw or modified (depending on its utilization, characteristics, etc.)
Prospecting on the moon has taken place already and valuable resources have been found. On Earth, the prototypes for collecting and extracting the resources and the required technologies have been created and tested in similar sites.
Ian Crawford, an important professor of astrobiology and planetary science at Birkbeck College, London, launched an opinion according to which the costs will exceed the benefits from a single resource. His opinion will be published in detail in the next Progress in Physical Geography journal. He stated that is hard to recognize a lunar resource valuable enough to drive a resource extraction industry on the moon.
In spite of that, an economic interest could materialize, thanks to many raw materials on its surface. In addition, those resources could provide a big opportunity for an industrial infrastructure in the space near Earth.
Helium-3 is a resource on which Ian Crawford provides little hope. Helium-3 is helium isotope. In billions of year’s time the solar wind placed this volatile substance on the surface of the moon. Helium-3 was implanted in the lunar regolith, in the upper layers of the moon. Nuclear fusion reactors of the future can be the beneficiaries of this resource. Crawford argued that this is an important resource. But, after it would have been mined and used with at a great cost, the abundant Helium-3 will eventually finish, being a fossil fuel. So it’s a limited resource just like oil or coal.
The same investment, according to Crawford, can be put to use to create an infrastructure for renewable energy resources on Earth.
Image Source: Popular Mechanics