NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey are on the hunt for materials that can be used to make shelter and equipment and turn ice into water. And they’re looking for it on the moon, according to E&E News (subscription).
What’s going on: “It’s not for use here on Earth, but part of a larger effort to return humans to the moon for the first time in more than half a century, establish a long-term presence and eventually support travel to Mars. As soon as 2025, NASA plans to send astronauts back to the moon. Over the long haul, the space agency is working to extract and process oxygen, water, titanium, iron, aluminum, magnesium and rare earth elements.”
- In 2020, the U.S. and more than 20 other nations joined the Artemis Accords, agreeing to become part of the NASA lunar program and abide by certain principles covering everything from preserving historic sites to extracting lunar resources.
Potential issue: However, the accords don’t cover national boundaries, so “[s]ome say lunar resources—solar power, oxygen and metals—could be in the crosshairs,” E&E News reports.
Stay a while: NASA aims to create a long-term presence on the moon. “But creating an outpost on the moon will require infrastructure to refuel spacecraft and vehicles, build base camps, craft replacement parts and sustain life—all at a reasonable cost.”
- That’s where lunar resources come in. The moon has some key ingredients for supporting a long-term stay, according to geological surveys: water, helium and rare earth elements.
- And ice believed to be locked in craters near the lunar poles “can be purified and used for drinking water.”
The NAM’s take: “Manufacturers are at their best when they’re encouraged to innovate,” said NAM Vice President of Domestic Policy Brandon Farris. “Whether it is developing resources that can sustain an outpost on the moon or developing new sources of critical minerals closer to home, manufacturers will continue to lead the charge.”