Is it realistic to mine the moon's resources?


Juhasz Imre

Humans have long been interested in the moon, and in 1969 the Apollo 11 landed on the moon to reach the human surface for the first time. Finally, the moon exploration by humans ceased after the Apollo 17 which landed on the moon in 1972, but 'to develop the moon' has become a big dream for human beings. The development of such a moon has been summarized by Paul K. Byrne, Associate Professor of Planetary Geography at North Carolina State University.

Mining the Moon

If a human being is thrown out on the moon, it will die instantly because of the thin atmosphere. Even if it is not, the extreme temperature difference, meteor impact, and moon environment where harmful cosmic rays are harmful to human body are not suitable environment for human survival. Still, humans want to develop the moon, and development requires resources such as dwellings, air, food and energy.

'We can bring resources from the earth to the moon, but this is a very expensive option,' Byrne points out. Launching the resources necessary for the development of the moon from the earth costs a great deal of money, so the concept of ' in situ resource utilization ' that requires resources for the moon itself is attracting attention.

By developing the moon and constructing a lunar base, Byrne believes that it will be an important stepping stone to Mars and other planets, as well as bring about various technological innovations. However, for now, the idea of using lunar resources is almost fancy, and it is difficult to extract resources from the moon and convert them into usable forms. Nevertheless, several countries, including China, are interested in the mission to send humans to the moon, and technology to utilize the resources of the moon is in increasing need.

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There are already institutions that plan to use the moon's resources, and the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch an explorer to the Moon's Antarctica in 2022, and will look for the moon and useful chemicals. Digging the ground surface. He also plans to mine the helium isotope ' Helium 3 ', which appears to be much more abundant on the Moon than on Earth, and to confine it to the moon's regolith and send it back to Earth. Helium 3 is considered promising for use as a fuel for fusion reactors, and it is believed that the moon certainly has useful resources.

On the other hand Byrne says the moon is not so suitable for the purpose of mining precious elements such as gold, platinum and rare earth elements . This is the same as shaking the test tube filled with water and sand, as the sand finally accumulates at the bottom of the test tube, and when the planet melts, heavy elements sink to the center of the planet. . If anything, small objects such as asteroids are preferable to the moon to obtain resources such as heavy metals.

Also, developing the moon is important not only for obtaining resources but also for learning about the formation of the solar system and the earth. In the coming decades, new steps of development will be reached, and development may progress to the stage of mining resources and human settlements. Byrne said that in the future, it would be possible to make a leap into space even larger by taking advantage of the moon.

in Science, Posted by log1h_ik