Moon Mining: NASA Takes Steps Toward Commercializing Lunar Resources
NASA is planning to go back to the Moon after more than 50 years. When they do, they might do more than just leave footprints on the surface. They might also try to mine the Moon for resources, which could start early in the next decade.
NASA wants to send a drill rig to the Moon next month. By 2032, they want to start large-scale mining of lunar regolith using a test processing plant to get resources like water, iron, and rare metals. Reuters got this information from recent comments made by a NASA scientist.
Gerald Sanders, a rocket scientist at NASA’s Johnston Space Centre, spoke at the World Mining Congress this week in Brisbane. He said that NASA hopes to look into the possibility of mining on the moon within the next 10 years to “quantify potential resources,” as reported by Reuters.
Previous study has shown that the Moon has natural resources that could be used, such as ice water reservoirs hidden in the shadows (which could be used to make rocket fuel) and valuable metals and minerals. In 2022, China’s Chang’e 5 mission brought back a sample of a new type of material from the Moon. The sample was said to contain helium-3, which could be used for nuclear fusion.
NASA’s plan is to gather resources that humans could use on the Moon, like water, and then move on to rare elements that could be used by businesses. This could help build a future business on the moon and help the space agency learn more about the moon’s environment. The first users are likely to be commercial rocket companies, which want to use the Moon’s resources to make fuel or oxygen. Sanders said that if NASA knew how much of each resource was on the Moon, it could attract commercial investment and improve business prospects.
Sanders was quoted at the conference as saying, “We are trying to invest in the exploration phase, understand the resources, and (lower) risk so that external investment makes sense and could lead to development and production.”
The first group of humans will go to the Moon through NASA’s Artemis program no sooner than 2025. From there, the space agency wants to set up a permanent presence on the Moon by sending a crew of humans to the lunar surface regularly and setting up the Lunar Gateway as an orbiting outpost to support the ongoing missions. With all of these big plans coming up, the space agency could use some help turning Moon resources into money.
Sanders said, “We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.”