Science Sunday: Private Companies Seek to Mine the Moon!

Can private companies mine the moon?

I came across this gem of a news article from Sen.com, in which the reporter outlines the aims of multiple private companies in the race to mine elements from the moon. Texas-Based Shackleton Energy Company (SEC) is one of the first to express this interest, and they are creating a plan to separate the ice from the poles of the moon in order to create a propellent for spacecraft. There are an estimated 1.6 Billion tons of Water Ice on the moon, and the Shackleton company will use a combination of human and robotic miners to secure the payload, after which they plan to sell off the propellent as an after-product in a Low-Earth Orbit gas station of sorts. For years, scientists have said that part of the problem with a Mars mission is the return trip. If our spacecraft can refuel after hitting Low-Earth Orbit, they would have plenty for the trip home.

Ideas like this one inspired the premise of my scifi series, The Corsair Uprising, in which an asteroid mining company gains control over the precious metal market and hits the highest valuation of any company in existence. In the story, Vesta Corporation has control over political offices and diplomats and they have their own mafia-style enforcers to do their bidding. In the short term, meaning the next 50 years, I think there are a lot of great benefits to mining the moon as well as asteroids and eventually Mars. However, in the long term, meaning 100+ years, I think there’s cause for concern. Let me explain why.

Here’s an infographic (not the best I acknowledge) but an effective enough representation of when we will run out of certain minerals and metals on the Earth. If these predictions are even semi-accurate, then we will need to find other places to find these minerals and metals or we’ll have to drastically change what and how we produce. It is this kind of situation that leads to desperate acts. In my series, Vesta Corporation was the only company with the technology to deliver these precious metals at first, and so they held a monopoly on the market. Eventually other companies would join in, but they were all, in actuality, arms of the same company. Undoubtedly we will need to search for new sources of metals and minerals someplace other than Earth in the next 100-200 years, and I think we should be hesitant when it comes to the companies involved.

Right now, the Sen.com article mentions a few private companies vying for the same goal of mining on the moon. But who owns the moon? I think we as a world need to come together at some sort of summit and discuss exactly how this is going to pan out. Is it going to be the Wild West where possession is everything? Will different space-faring countries stake claims? Can a company legally sell something that they have no right to have? Does the company own the land on the moon or the country they represent? My head is brimming with questions on the ethics of space travel and of ownership of extraterrestrial bodies of land. The American Flag sits atop the Moon. Does that make it ours? It’s a question for far brighter minds than mine. I wonder what Neil Degrasse Tyson would say?

The good news is, if you want to buy a plot of land on Mars, look no further. (Disclaimer: This is B.S. Do not waste your money on this).

What do you think of mining the moon’s Helium, Oxygen, and other materials? What do you think of claims of ownership by corporations on the Moon, Mars, or anywhere else?

To find my books regarding the subject of extraterrestrial mining, find me on Amazon.