The big players in mining and rare earth metals have their eyes on a new destination: space.
Being dubbed by many as the “lunar gold rush” the concept of mining on the moon is coming into full focus.
The big idea:
- The current belief by many scientists is that there are a number of valuable resources on the moon.
- One example is Helium-3. Helium 3 is an isotope of helium that could be used for nuclear energy. While it is rare on earth, it is potentially abundant on the moon.
- Rare earths are also believed to be on the moon. There are many uses for rare earths, spanning from being used for hardware for computers all the way to drug development
- Rare earths, as their name implies, are becoming increasingly scarce on Earth and is fuelling the push to explore space mining
But, does it work:
- The specifics of how mining on the moon are largely unknown and unexplored
- However, some scientists have speculated it could be possible for robots to conduct initial lunar explorations
Who is making moves:
- NASA has made it their mission to begin mining on the moon within the decade
- NASA has also stated they will explore “commercial partners” for excavating soil on the moon and beginning exploration for resources
- Numerous startups have received significant venture funding to explore mining in space, some of which are building technology to survey the moons surface from the air and others which are building robotics to roam the physical surface of moon
- Whiles space exploration is an enormously popular area of venture capital and has raised over $200B USD in the last ten years, space mining and asteroid mining is considerably less well funded and still largely seen as speculative
- Mining in space has yet to ever occur and is still unproven
- The technical challenges are immense, as even choosing which asteroids to target for mining relies on existing data from researchers with no way of knowing its accuracy
- Lunar Outpost - an industry leader in space robotics and lunar surface mobility. Their flagship rover, the Mobile Autonomous Prospecting Platform, will be the first commercial rover to the lunar South Pole in 2023.
- TransAstra - aims to 'sustainably harvest resources from the Moon and asteroids and change the course of history'
- AstroForge - a startup preparing to mine asteroids for metals. The company says it will launch its first two missions this year, including one that will fly by a near Earth asteroid.