The Moon is likely the next destination for human exploration of the Solar System. There will be a need to sustain humans for a long-duration on its surface, and many people are raising some interesting questions about what resources the Moon may host in order to build bases, sustain life, and start to develop a local space economy that will enable access to other destinations like asteroids and Mars.
Planning for development of such an infrastructure on the Moon or means to collect the raw materials (i.e., rocks and soil) that could be processed into usable products is in its infancy – there are many papers studies of how a lunar resource infrastructure might work, and there are some test experiments that have been built here on Earth to demonstrate how to extract resources that might have an economic or exploration importance (most notably oxygen and water).
To develop a network of people interested in such issues, I recently attended at three day workshop at the European Space Agency called ‘Towards the use of Lunar Resources‘ that aimed to bring together from diverse backgrounds – architects, engineers, financiers, lawyers, scientists, instrument and mission developers, private companies – to discuss what we know about potential resources on the Moon, determine where these might be located, establish if there is a market for them, and establish a sustainable environmental and legal framework for any future surface operations. It is really interesting to see how people from very different background come together to discuss ideas and there were several panel events discussing what challenges we face.
You can see a copy of the presentations given via this link. Outcomes of the meeting will be posted soon as a report (I will update this blog post when it is available). It will be interesting to see how plans evolve within European and in other space faring nations over the next decade.
You can find out more about the topic at :
- Prof Ian Crawford’s recent paper on lunar resources
- Space resources article http://www.skyatnightmagazine.com/news/planetary-exploration-living-land
- Paul Spudis’s lunar resource blog
- MOXI experiment that will fly on the NASA Mars 2020 rover mission to test extraction of oxygen from the martian atmosphere
- PROSPECT experiment that will fly to the Moon on the Luna 27 mission to test extraction of oxygen from lunar soils