While moon mining might seem like a futuristic concept, the idea isn’t as far out as one might think. With the lunar surface containing trillions of dollars worth of rare isotopes, the market demand has been pushing many governments as well as private companies to begin investing in potential methods of making this possible.
The past few days have seen a couple of news developments in this regard with one major moon exploration mission announced on Wednesday.
A number of nations have been investing heavily into this sector, with the EU, U.S. China, Russia, and India all making major strides in this area. India, in particular, announced that they would be launching a specialized craft on July 15th and are expecting a touchdown sometime in September.
The mission would look for energy sources on the lunar surface, specifically looking for large deposits of the highly sought-after isotope, helium-3.
Extracting helium-3 from the moon’s surface is the most lucrative option for the industry right now. One tonne of the isotope has a market value of $5 billion thanks to its energy potential that could completely replace uranium.
Currently, there is estimated to be around one million tonnes of helium-3 on the moon, and although just 25 percent of that can be brought to Earth realistically, that’s enough to meet the world’s energy needs for 200 to 500 years.
Just a couple of days ago, NASA also announced they were investing in technology to help explore lunar craters for precious resources as part of their larger “Moon to Mars” exploration mandate. “We are pursuing new technologies across our development portfolio that could help make deep space exploration more Earth-independent by utilizing resources on the Moon and beyond,” said Jim Reuter, associate administrator of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “These NIAC Phase III selections are a component of that forward-looking research and we hope new insights will help us achieve more firsts in space.”
Back in 2015, President Obama signed a law which let U.S. citizens keep any resources they mine in space, a major rule that essentially kick started the currently budding sector. Since then, Luxembourg launched an official plan to promote both moon and asteroid mining as the country aims to be a world leader in this regard.
Canada is also seeing a number of private exploration firms gaining traction, with Deltion Innovations partnering with Moon Express to gain government permission to travel beyond Earth’s orbit in future missions.
While moon mining has captured the attention of these companies, asteroid mining is also a highly lucrative opportunity for companies, with some of the larger asteroids passing Earth containing hundreds of billions worth in rare metals like platinum and platinum.
All these efforts would eventually transition into other areas like building human colonies on the moon and Mars, something that billionaire Elon Musk is already planning for.
Overall, the moon mining sector is still at a stage where it’s too early for regular investors to get involved. However, the next year or two could see many of these initial companies venture out into the public markets for funding, making them legitimate plays for traders and investors.