Lunar Economy: World Powers Compete in Quest for Moon’s Resources

Sat Aug 12 2023
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MOSCOW: The global race to explore and harness the potential resources of the moon has intensified, with major powers like Russia, the United States, China, and India launching ambitious missions to uncover valuable materials on Earth’s natural satellite.

Russia’s recent launch of its first moon-landing spacecraft in nearly five decades has further fueled this competition, as nations seek to tap into the moon’s resources for various purposes. Notable among these resources are water, helium-3, and rare earth metals, each holding significant promise for technological advancement and space exploration.

Water, a critical component for sustaining human life, has been detected on the moon’s surface, particularly concentrated at its poles. Besides its essential role for future lunar inhabitants, water can also serve as a source of hydrogen and oxygen, vital components for rocket fuel.

Helium-3, a scarce isotope of helium on Earth, presents a potential breakthrough for nuclear energy in fusion reactors. Its presence on the moon offers an attractive prospect for clean and efficient energy generation without hazardous radioactive waste.

Concept of Moon Mining

Rare earth metals, crucial for advanced technologies such as smartphones and computers, have also been identified on the lunar surface. These metals include scandium, yttrium, and the lanthanide series elements, making the moon a potential repository for essential materials needed in modern industries.

While the concept of moon mining holds immense potential, the practicalities of its execution remain complex. Establishing lunar infrastructure and deploying robots to conduct mining operations are key challenges, though the presence of water on the moon could facilitate sustained human presence over time.

The legal framework governing moon mining is a topic of ongoing debate. The United Nations’ Outer Space Treaty of 1966 prohibits any nation from claiming sovereignty over celestial bodies, emphasizing the exploration of space for the collective benefit of all countries. However, ambiguities exist concerning private entities’ potential to assert sovereignty over lunar regions.

The 1979 Moon Agreement, which restricts lunar ownership, lacks widespread ratification by major spacefaring nations. In contrast, the United States introduced the Artemis Accords in 2020, seeking to build on existing space law by establishing “safety zones” on the moon. While the Artemis Accords have been embraced by some nations, including the US, not all major players, such as Russia and China, have joined the initiative.

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