Humans are already going to extremes to get natural resources. Gold and platinum mines in South Africa go as deep as almost 4 km into the Earth’s crust, which is about twice the depth of the Grand Canyon.
Meanwhile, up high in the Andes are some of the biggest copper and gold operations in the world. In Peru, La Rinconada is the world’s highest permanent settlement at 5,100 m, and it is situated strategically between many artisanal gold deposits in the mountains.
However, there are two frontiers that humans are still exploring in their early stages: the deep sea and spacial bodies such as asteroids, planets, and the moon. Today’s infographic covers the prospect of moon mining.
While we often think of the moon as a pretty barren landscape, it turns out moon mining could take advantage of many natural resources present on the lunar surface.
Water is vital in space for a multitude of reasons, such as for use in human consumption, agriculture, or hydrogen fuel. It’s also cost prohibitive to transport water to space anytime we may need it from earth. Scientists are now confident that the moon has a variety of water sources, including water locked up in minerals, scattered through the broken-up surface, and potentially in blocks or sheets at depth.
Helium-3 is a rare isotope of helium. Currently the United States produces only 8kg of it per year for various purposes. Helium-3 is a sought-after resource for fusion energy and energy research.
Lastly, rare earth elements (REEs) are also at high concentrations on the moon. KREEP (Potassium, REEs, and Phosphorus) is a geochemical mixture of some lunar impact breccia rocks and is expected to be extremely common on the moon. This mix also has other important substances embedded, such as uranium, thorium, fluorine, and chlorine.
If a lunar colony is indeed in our future, moon mining operations may be an important component of it.