Humanity has always looked to the stars for inspiration. Myths, dreams, and legends have spawn from our fascination with the heavens but what about our economic future?
Sure there are several exciting, sometimes terrifying, novels and movies about what waits for humanity in the stars beyond but NASA is attempting to paint a new image for the final frontier. And the image is money, political power, and moon rocks.
NASA wants to spark a “lunar gold rush” by paying companies to extract rare earth metals (REM) from the moon.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine recently tweeted that the space agency “is buying lunar soil from a commercial provider! It’s time to establish the regulatory certainty to extract and trade space resources.”
The moon holds hundreds of billions, if not trillions, of dollars of untapped resources, including fifteen lanthanides, as well as scandium and yttrium – used in modern electronics. There’s also an abundance of Helium-3, a very rare gas, with the potential to fuel clean nuclear fusion power plants.
Just as the cold war was drastically effected by the space race, so too could America’s economic future. Although Trump was able to fuel the U.S. economy to record levels, the recent coronavirus pandemic stimmed much of that progress and sowed uncertainty to many markets.
If the U.S. acts now, the ripple effect of new technology, new markets, and a renewed labor demand may give America a leading edge for decades to come.
In a blog post, Bridenstine said NASA’s Artemis project “will lay the foundation for a sustained long-term presence on the lunar surface and use the Moon to validate deep space systems and operations before embarking on the much farther voyage to Mars.” He said the push to mine moon rocks would fully comply with the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, which outlines no country has a sovereign claim to the moon or other celestial bodies.