NASA intends to commence mining operations on the Moon within the next decade, aiming to tap into its vast untapped resources, including oxygen, water, iron, and rare earth elements. The space agency estimates that the Moon holds “hundreds of billions of dollars” worth of valuable resources. The initial focus of the mining endeavor will be on extracting oxygen and water to support human life on the lunar surface. As the operation expands, NASA plans to target other valuable resources.
Speaking at a mining conference in Brisbane, NASA’s Gerald Sanders revealed that the mining mission will kick off soon with the deployment of a test drill rig to the Moon. The ultimate goal is to attract commercial interest in lunar mining, which would help drive down costs and facilitate further exploration and production.
NASA’s efforts are not limited to the United States alone. The Australian Space Agency has also expressed its intention to participate in lunar mining initiatives. They plan to use a semi-autonomous rover to extract lunar soil samples containing oxides, which could be instrumental in extracting oxygen gas for astronauts to breathe on the Moon’s surface. This collaboration is seen as a significant step toward establishing a sustainable human presence on the Moon and supporting future missions to Mars.
Earlier this year, NASA achieved a milestone by successfully extracting oxygen from simulated lunar soil in a vacuum environment. This breakthrough, utilizing a high-powered laser, has the potential to produce substantial quantities of oxygen from the Moon’s surface. Scientists view this technological advancement as a crucial step toward developing the necessary infrastructure for building sustainable human bases on other celestial bodies.
NASA’s ambitious Artemis program aims to return humans to the Moon for the first time in over five decades, with crewed missions planned for 2024 or later. The mining operations and resource extraction on the Moon are expected to play a vital role in supporting this mission and paving the way for future exploration and colonization of other planets.
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