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Blue Moon, the next Gold Rush?

Very interesting news came out this week with the discovery of conclusive evidence of water in the sunlit areas of the Moon’s surface. There have been previous detections of water in permanently shadowed parts of lunar craters known as cold traps – where water could be captured and remain permanently. These cold traps were found at both poles and it was concluded that approximately 40,000 kilometres squared of the lunar surface has the capacity to trap water, but this recent discovery could be a game changer for permanent lunar colonies.


Water is essential to human life but is very expensive and difficult to launch into space (and landed on the lunar surface) in the volumes needed and the presence of water on the Moon may mean we can utilise the water that is there rather than sending it up. The establishment of a base on the Moon would help immensely with the next step of human expansion in to space, the human exploration of Mars as early as the 2030s. Experts say that water could form the basis of a future lunar economy, once we’ve figured out how to extract it. It would be much cheaper to make rocket fuel on the Moon than send it from Earth. In future water could be turned into the hydrogen and oxygen commonly used as a rocket propellant.


The problem with this discovery is that it could open up the Moon to resource harvesting by spacefaring nations. This may not be far off. Nasa’s Artemis mission plans to send a male and female astronaut to the moon by 2024 and British scientists are also developing a robotic drill to take samples of lunar soil from depths of up to a metre, as part of a Russian mission scheduled for 2025. Indeed, the USA has a 2028 goal to build a lunar base and eventually sustain a human presence on the moon, and NASA has already awarded contracts to over a dozen companies to deploy technology on the lunar surface. These include remote power generation, robotics, and even a 4G (eventually to be upgraded to 5G) data network.


The Russians and the Chinese(and other nations with spaceflight capability such as India) will obviously be watching these developments we both interest and apprehension, as having the Moon as a US state would not be in their best interests, with the as yet untapped lunar resources a source of riches beyond anything exploited in humankinds history, as well as occupying a strategic place in the skies for deployment of ‘defensive’ weaponry.


Human progress in to the solar system is inevitable, but agreements as to how this expansion is managed and controlled should be on every countries agenda before it results in the astronautical equivalent of the Klondike goldrush. What happens on the Moon will dictate how the future expansion of interplanetary mankind happens, and the potential for conflict is always with us but on a scale that is currently almost beyond comprehension unless you’re a Star Trek fan!

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