Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Three Uses Of Lunar Resources That Create A Reason For Sovereign Take-Over

Science tells us that the Moon was formed by a Mars-sized object impacting with Earth, blowing debris into orbit which formed the Lunar mass. This means that much of the resources present are similar to those on Earth but with some notable amounts and anomalies. There are huge supplies of Oxygen locked into the surface, bonded with other elements. Water is almost certainly found in ice deposits at the poles and on the dark side. Helium-3, an element highly prized as an energy source, is also abundant. These resources form one reason (out of several) that certain states could ignore the poor attempts to codify a legal framework on space and assert ownership of areas of the Moon and the valuable resources contain there-in. This article outlines several reasons why these resources are such so tempting; rising in both costs and returns.

  1.  With many nations struggling with resource consumption, the minerals found on the Moon could be an economic and industrial life-saver. As well as being a ready source of replacements for rare or costly materials, Helium-3 is an excellent source of energy with far less pollution than comparable fossil fuels
  2. Using Lunar resources it would eventually be possible to develop orbital or surface solar energy facilities (e.g. Solar Power Satellite whose usage, first postulated by O’Neill and Glasner may be feasible when developed from space). Using microwaves to send energy back to Earth it would be possible to move construction, production and transfer off-planet, which could be an almost completely clean, and massively financially beneficial, form of production. 
  3. By escaping Earth’s gravity well it is also possible to create a sustainable cislunar (between Earth and the Moon's orbit) travel system and, using water and resources gained from the Moon, create fuel and bases from which to both develop Mid Earth Orbits (MEOs) and Geostationary Earth Orbits (GEOs) which is incredibly difficult from Earth. This has the added benefit of making a cheaper system to bring resources to Earth. The moon can also act as a staging ground and construction site for system travel and exploration.
While these courses of action seem a little far-fetched they have all proved to be feasible for several of the major state powers following their stated aims of achieving Lunar bases between 2020 and 2030. They all provide enough of a return to convince states such as the USA and especially China to see flouting international codes of conduct and claiming territory.