Mining on the Moon is decades away and will become the biggest “economic revolution” in history, an expert says.
Planetary scientist Dr Philip Metzger said nations, companies and entrepreneurs will soon be racing to be the first to set up a permanent lunar base.
He spoke as NASA announced it will pay up between $15,000 to $25,000 for rock samples weighing between 50 to 500 grams from the Moon’s surface.
Dr Metzger, of the University of Central Florida, said: “It’s inevitable that sometime this century, nations will begin establishing full mining and manufacturing supply chains outside of Earth’s gravity well.
“It’ll be a race between entrepreneurs, companies and nations. It’s going to open up a billion times greater resources and it will be an economic revolution greater than any we’ve seen before.”
SpaceX’s tech billionaire founder Elon Musk and Amazon chief Jeff Bezos have already started developing commercial rockets to fly tourists to the Moon.
Experts believe large-scale mining operations that can extract water ice, rare earth metals and the nuclear fuel Helium-3 from the moon will be in place within decades.
Benjamin Sovacool, a professor of energy policy at the University of Sussex, said that mining on the Moon is too expensive to profit from now, it will eventually provide “lucrative and even efficient sources of materials, minerals or metals”.
He added it also “avoids claims of human rights abuses or social irresponsibility” unlike mining on Earth.
NASA offered to pay for the space rocks as part of its Artemis project to get humans back on the Moon again by 2024.
It plans to then set up a permanent presence on and around the satellite by the mid-2030s, helping it send astronauts to Mars.
Some astronomers have warned space mining could block out our view of the night’s sky.
James Geach, a professor at the Centre for Astrophysics Research at the University of Hertfordshire, said: “Unless we are very careful, the more ‘industrial’ activity we see in space, the harder it will be to have clear views of the deep cosmos.”