The Moon: An Orbiting Mother Lode

Space has nearly unlimited resources, which is why nations and businesses are beginning to look to the heavens as the next frontier in mining a range of metals and minerals. To speed this along, NASA awarded contracts in 2020 to four companies to extract and return to earth lunar regolith by 2024.

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    The Moon: An Orbiting Mother Lode

    The Moon: An Orbiting Mother Lode

    Space has nearly unlimited resources, which is why nations and businesses are beginning to look to the heavens as the next frontier in mining a range of metals and minerals. To speed this along, NASA awarded contracts in 2020 to four companies to extract and return to earth lunar regolith by 2024.

    While ambitions for space are big (e.g., mining on asteroids, space settlement, developing manufacturing on the moon and space tourism), there is now a laser focus on developing mining capabilities on the moon.

    Major Mining Opportunities

    NASA describes three primary mining opportunities:

    • Water, which will be important for supporting life and agriculture beyond Earth and for converting into rocket fuel
    • Helium-3, a rare element that will enable future energy sources, such as nuclear fusion
    • Rare earth metals used in modern electronics, upon which Western nations are dependent on China

    How Would Mining Work

    The challenges of mining the moon are daunting. The lack of atmosphere, extreme temperature swings and high radiation levels are some of the immediate ones. Others involve the stress that launches have on the equipment that must be landed on the moon and the limited payloads that can be shuttled between the earth and the moon.

    Before mining on the moon can become commercially viable, considerable research, development and testing of technologies still need to be done.

    One vision of how mining the moon’s resources could be done is by developing the necessary machines and tools via 3-D printing once the primary materials are delivered to the moon’s surface. Mining in the “near term” is likely to be used to support on-site utilization, such as building infrastructure on the moon or Mars. Bringing the mined material back to earth is much further off.

    The New Space Race (with China)

    Similar to America’s race to the moon against the Soviet Union in the 1960s, America is in a race against China to lead in mining the moon and establishing a permanent moon base.

    Though China today remains far behind America’s space capabilities, space leadership is a top priority for China. They have made great headway in closing the space gap with America, as evidenced by their recent successes, including landing a rover on Mars, completing its own satellite navigation system, the yet-finished development of a space station and the landing of a rover on the far side of the moon.

    Space exploration by private sectors also continues to grow, making the coming years all the more interesting.

     

    Please reference disclosures: https://blog.americanportfolios.com/disclosures

     

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