geologists and space entrepreneurs are becoming increasingly intrigued by the
concept of lunar mining now that researchers have discovered an abundance of water on
the moon. But others are suggesting that many obstacles need to be overcome
before such a project can be executed.
discovery of lunar water has
raised questions as to whether other resources such as helium 2 and rare Earth
elements could be found on the moon as well. Now, certain countries are looking
to race to the moon.
Spudis, Ph.D., a lunar geologist and Senior Staff Scientist at the Lunar and
Planetary Institute in Houston, Texas, has expressed interest in lunar mining and
has even devised a plan for returning to the moon despite the fact that the
Obama administration has no plans to return to the moon at all due to its cancellation
of the Constellation program. Spudis' plan involves "robotic
resource extraction and the deployment of space-based fuel depots" using
water from the moon before any humans return to its surface.
other hand, Mike Wall, editor of SPACE.com, believes lunar
mining should not be attempted before ironing out a few technical and legal
issues. For instance, an international agreement consisting of property rights,
a salvage law and a mining law would be needed in order to decide who owns the
resources once they are extracted. The Outer Space Treaty does not allow nation
states to claim territories on the moon, but it does not
mention anything regarding resource mining, and laws need to be set before any
mining on the moon begins.
these laws, several proposals have been submitted with viable ideas to set
lunar mining in motion. One proposal, which was published in the SMU Journal of Air Law and Commerce, recommended
that "space faring countries" should claim and defend a large portion
of land around an established lunar settlement and sell the land to investors
on Earth, which could fund the commercial venture.
proposal suggested an international agreement to sell lunar land to investors
in an effort to fund space exploration programs.
Russia and India have expressed interest in resource development on the