While mining the moon for natural resources sounds like the plot of a 1950’s science fiction movie, it is really going to happen shortly, thanks to Moon Express, an early stage company and startup Rocket Lab, a firm that has a rocket ready for a test flight. Moon Express plans on being the first company to go to the moon specifically for resource extraction that provides economic gain.
Mining the moon for resources probably won’t cause any international incidents as it is treated the same way as international waters in the ocean; nations can ethically mine resources, however, they cannot claim sovereignty under the Outer Space Treaty. U.S.-based Moon Express already has permission from the Federal Aviation Administration to land on the moon’s surface in 2017. Ultimately. Moon Express wants to mine the oxygen trapped in the rocks, which it hopes can be used as rocket fuel, turning the moon into a launch pad for further space exploration. In addition, the moon has niobium, yttrium and Helium-3, which theoretically could be used in fusion reactions.
Based at Space Launch Complexes 17 and 18 at Cape Canaveral, Florida, Moon Express was founded by Naveen Jain, Barney Pell and Robert D. Richards, who hope to land their coffee table-size initial lander on the moon for under $10 million. The founders have also said that besides mining, there are unimagined benefits yet to be realized. Hoping to win the Google Lunar X Prize of $20 million, Moon Express’ MX-1E lander is designed to hop across the moon’s surface and take photos and video, a requirement for capturing the prize.