In recent years, lunar mining has gained traction as a potential solution to resource depletion on Earth. With the mission to venture even deeper into space, space exploration agency NASA is eyeing lunar mining trials within the next decade.
NASA believes that the lunar surface is rich in selenium, titanium and even Helium-3 which could be used to fuel fusion reactors on Earth. In addition, the Moon’s gravity is much lower, making it an ideal mining site due to the reduced energy needed to travel and work in the space. A number of experiments have been proposed which seek to understand the geology of the lunar surface, map out resources, study the environment and examine the potential for economically viable mining.
NASA has already sent a robotic lander, Intelligent Rover, to the Moon to explore the dark side of the lunar surface and gather data. Future space missions are expected to be even more comprehensive and will involve remote sensing vehicles studying the lunar environment, mapping surface mineral distribution, and even testing robotic mining tools.
NASA is keen to explore the potential for manned operations on the Moon, and the lunar base called the Artemis Base Camp is being devised for this purpose. As part of the plans, the agency is developing a lunar surface habitat called the Habitation Module which would enable astronauts to set up a base, drill and collect resources from the Moon.
The trials by NASA are expected to pave the way for private companies to establish coordination between them and the space agency to explore the potential for commercial space mining. Private firms such as Shackleton Energy are already preparing to launch orbital operations and the evidence collected by the rovers and space vehicles could enable them to plan their operations better.
NASA’s journey to the Moon could provide valuable resources to humans on Earth and enable us to explore even farther. Over the next decade, the space agency’s efforts to study the lunar surface, map out resources and experiment with robotic tools could pave the way for commercial space mining.