The Moon is likely home to lots of rare elements that are vital to new energy technologies and national security. Considering Earth's mineral reserves are running out and countries are restricting access, could lunar mining be our only hope?
The US Congressional Research Service recently reviewed the worldwide distribution of rare earth elements, a class of elements that, while not always hugely valuable, exist in very limited quantities on this planet. Some of these elements, like europium and tantalum, are vital in energy and defense technologies, and America's - or, indeed, any country's - security would be put in peril if access to those elements was disrupted.
We know that the Moon has some amount of these rare earth elements, which would potentially provide an entirely untapped source for these vital minerals. Unfortunately, we don't know much more than the simple fact of their existence. It's still a mystery how much of these elements there are on the Moon, whether it would be economically feasible to mine them, or how the logistics of such operations would work.
Those are some of the questions Space.com writer Leonard David asked a number of planetary scientists, as well as explaining how these minerals got there in the first place. There's no consensus yet, but one researcher suggests we'll be getting serious about mining on the Moon as early as 2030. For the complete lowdown on the future Moon-based economy, check out the original article over at Space.com.