Many valuable resources can be found on the moon, such as gold, platinum and other rare metals. These types of metals are especially valuable because they are used in many types of electronics.
But to get to the moon, a lot of fuel is needed. Earth’s gravity is pulling so hard on a space vehicle that it takes a lot of fuel to take off and get out of the atmosphere – and if you also need enough for the way back, you have to go with a heavy and full tank on the road.
By building a kind of gas station on the moon, you save a lot of weight on the way there. In addition, this filling station could serve as an important pit stop on the way to other planets, such as Mars.
“Creating a sustainable space fuel source can reduce the costs and dangers of launches,” writes MIT Technology Review. A NASA estimate states that there may be 600 million tons of moon ice to harvest, other estimates say a billion tons is a possibility.
ESA and China
NASA is not alone in seeing a permanent station on the moon. The European Space Agency also sees something in a “month village” with the possibility of digging up metals.
China is also investigating water on the moon. And India’s failed lunar mission in August aimed to map the water at the moon’s south pole.
NASA is now working on a legal framework to be the first to determine who gets the rights to mine metals on the moon.
Fall and rise
Reaching water or metals on the moon is not an easy task. It is expensive to have a large team walking around, but robots are not yet getting the job done.
In addition, the surface of the moon is very sticky, causing equipment to break down quickly, and the water is not in lakes, rivers or seas as we are used to on earth. On the moon, water consists of very small, frozen droplets that are mixed with the bottom.
The water must therefore first be heated up so that it evaporates and can then be collected. According to experts, it is a matter of much trial and error before we can efficiently extract resources on the moon.