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Water found on the moon may spur more space exploration, lunar settlement and lunar mining  (Source: jyi.org)
Space entrepreneurs look to extract resources from the moon, but others are arguing that international laws need to be made first

Lunar 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. 

The 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.

Paul 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.

On the 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. 

To set 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. 

A second proposal suggested an international agreement to sell lunar land to investors in an effort to fund space exploration programs.  

China, Russia and India have expressed interest in resource development on the moon. 



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RE: slow down
By rikulus on 1/18/2011 2:33:18 PM , Rating: 2
I agree, I don't see a problem with starting to talk more realistically about what countries/companies can own outside of Earth, what they can mine, etc.

The whole premise for this article strikes me as funny though... whoa we discovered that there is water on the moon - that means there could be Helium 2 or rare Earth elements! Hey, maybe there will be cheese or diamonds! I don't get how one follows from the other. Lots of meteorites have obviously hit the moon, and we know comets and meteorites have water - so why would it be a surprise that there is water on the moon? What would have happened to it when it crashed there? It's a low energy element, so it's not going to decompose. And yes, it will sublimate, but the moon has gravity, so it will still be trapped until it falls in a dark cold spot where it won't sublimate from... exactly where they found a bunch of it.

Also, a quick bone to pick on rare earth metals... which were also mentioned in an article yesterday. They are rare earth METALS, not rare earth materials or rare earth elements - and just so everybody knows, they aren't really all that rare, it was just a naming convention for the f-group of the periodic table. People just didn't have much use for them until recently, so they weren't being mined much.

Now, getting elements that are rare on earth but useful might be worthwhile. Those would be "rare elements" or "rare elements on Earth", not rare earth elements. It just seems like you are trying to reference the whole Chinese rare earth metals mining situation. It's not worth going to the moon for those.


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