40 years after the Apollo missions, we still don’t have a complete picture of the Moon’s economic potential. We are already dependent on orbiting satellites for communication, navigation, weather-forecasting and resource management. But Space travel demands resources, and lots of them. Hydrogen and oxygen for rocket propellant and water to keep astronauts alive. Water has the unfortunate characteristic of being both heavy and incompressible, meaning it’s very difficult and expensive to lift large amounts of it into space. Unless NASA discovers an alternative to powering our spacecraft and defeating gravity, it’s infeasible to carry the rocket fuel that we’d need for the expeditions outside of the Earth. Initiatives that would decrease the burden of its overpopulation and demand for its limited resources. If the colonization and exploration of our solar neighborhood is to become a reality we need some kind of platform, either in near-earth orbit or on the moon from which we can launch these expeditions from.
Space exploration could expose the global economy to potentially unlimited external resources of energy and raw materials. NASA wants to produce water, oxygen, and hydrogen on the Moon and Mars. To colonize other planets, rather than transporting them from Earth it is imperative that we find a way of soliciting these gases and liquids from moons and planets. In 2018 NASA wants to land a rover on the Moon in the hopes that it can extract hydrogen, water, and oxygen so that Curiosity’s successor can convert the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into oxygen in 2020 when it lands on Mars.
At the same time the Techs at NASA also plan to put a rover on the Moon that will carry the RESOLVE (Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen & Lunar Volatile Extraction) payload. NASA’s previous experiments uncovered evidence for deposits of water ice and other volatiles trapped in cold ground less than 100 Kelvin or minus 173 degrees Celsius.
RESOLVE will contain the various tools necessary to carry out
in-situ experiments, enabling it to sift through the Moon’s loose surface soil and heat it up, looking for traces of hydrogen and oxygen, which can then be combined to make water. RESOLVE will apply this method to the regalith, if there’s water ice on the surface of the Moon, looking for evidence of water vapor coming out of the heated soil. Scientists at NASA know from the early studies of the Apollo samples that the lunar soil contains hydrogen, helium, carbon, nitrogen, and at high latitudes, hydroxide and perhaps water, and these may also be exploitable by the Rover and its support lab. Similarly Curiosity’s successor would have the same payload attached to it, currently being fitted out by NASA and will hopefully launch in 2020. This second IRSU experiment is planned to extract carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere, filter out dust, and then process the CO2 into oxygen.
Future missions planned by the Space Agency include large-scale ISRU devices capable of producing significant amounts of hydrogen, oxygen, and water on the Moon or Mars. This would probably be the most important advance since we first landed on the Moon, and Humanity’s first attempts at bioengineering and terra-forming its solar neighbors. Lunar Surface rocks have been found to contain raw materials such as magnesium, aluminum, silicon, iron and titanium. Other lunar materials which might be imported to the Earth include platinum group elements currently valued at between $20,000 and $50,000 per kilo, extracted from iron meteorites and equally valuable rare-earth elements which are known to be concentrated in some regions of the Moon
Scientists are discovering new and invaluable resources trapped beneath the Lunar surface, more than enough materials to justify mining on the moon and establishing a base there to house a colony that could perhaps take them to Mars and do the same there. Consider the importation of lunar resources to the Earth’s surface where they would contribute directly to the global economy. If the Moon can provide us with a platform from which we can explore space than Mars can provide us with the same in the hopes of exploring the moons and gas giants of the outer planets. Who can say what future technologies and Scientific discoveries will bring from siphoning gases from Jupiter or mining the fertile halos of Saturn, all too have moons and contain within the promise of Life.