Mining the moon is something that has been under intense debate over the course of the last several months within the space community. On one hand, it appears as though it could offer significant benefits while on the other hand it would most definitely offer significant cost. Overall though, it’s clear that the subject is garnering more, and more attention from those within agencies like NASA and even the private sector – as potentially useful, and economically beneficial minerals and samples could be returned for a profit.
However, it’s clear though at this point that the worth would have to be on a fundamental or useful level – rather than a significantly economic benefit that mining any particular product on the moon and returning it to Earth. In fact, just factoring in the cost that is associated with these types of moon mining expeditions – it would almost certainly eliminate the idea that mining on the moon for profit – would be a sustainable practice.
Ian Crawford, a professor of planetary science and astrobiology at Birkbeck College, in London pointed out that “If the moon’s resources are going to be helpful, they are going to be helpful beyond the surface of the moon itself.” He went on to note that “It’s quite complicated. It’s not simple at all.”
Those who support the notion of mining the moon point out that a valuable resource like helium-3 would be significantly beneficial for those building nuclear reactors. However, while that would function well, opponents of helium-3 mining on the moon point to one very simple explanation that makes it counterintuitive to the overall goal of those on Earth. Crawford pointed out that “It’s a fossil fuel reserve. Like mining all other coal or mining all the oil, once you’ve mind it … it’s gone.”
He then went on to point out that “It doesn’t make sense, the whole helium-3 argument.” Which is a fair argument. Especially when we are already searching for legitimately renewable sources of energy right now. Using another fossil fuel reserve on another planet just strips that planet of what it naturally has. The same practice that created a scenario where mining another planet – for energy exploitation – seems like a good, sustainable idea.
Overall though, regardless of the position of those here on Earth – there are a lot of differing views on mining the moon. Whether it’s financially rewarding enough or even feasible to begin with is something that will be debated for years to come.