NASA evidently wants to bring the solar system a little bit closer together as their newest effort is to offer their support to private sector companies that want to mine the moon. The important thing to keep in mind here is that the space agency is not acting as a “gatekeeper” of any sort to moon mining efforts.
After all, there currently are no international laws regulating such activities on the moon, although the subject is grounds for discussion. While there are laws in place that prohibit any one country from claiming the moon as their own, the laws do not extend far beyond that. As it currently stands, if one country wants to build a mining rover and send it to the moon on their own, they can. However, having NASA’s support, an organization known as the largest space agency in the world is certainly a boon to making events transgress more smoothly.
With a relatively small budget of $17.65 billion, this is not the first time NASA has creatively sought ways to further space exploration by using the private sector for support. NASA has already teamed up with Planetary Resources Inc. in order to find an asteroid they could pull into an orbit around the moon. They have also joined with another organisation called Disc Detective that allows any individual to access the website and search for the birthplace of stars.
NASA is currently inviting private sector moon mining companies to submit proposals, which are incidentally due today in order to receive their support. The proposals are being submitted for what is known as the Lunar Cargo Transportation and Landing by Soft Touchdown program or CATALYST for short. The program offers no direct sources of funding and instead will offer assistance in the form of regular forms of transport to and from the moon. The support, which comes from years of experience, will as its aptly named program suggests be a catalyst for any private sector company that is looking to get a head start in their moon mining operations. Final proposals for the program are due on March 17th and the winner will be revealed some time later.
Mining the moon could be big business. It is currently speculated that the moon contains a wealth of helium-3, something that is almost non-existent here on Earth. The valuable mineral is useful in powering nuclear fusion reactors. This form of power would virtually revolutionize the energy industry, producing clean energy at a very small cost. One could only imagine the reaction of major oil companies and executives if such a thing were to be made possible.
While NASA makes these plans to support private sector moon mining operations, they have also been busy with other innovative projects. They recently revealed that they will be working with a Houston-based company called GRoK Technologies to develop new medical technology that will regenerate bone and muscle tissues. This is technology that so far, has only existed within the realm of science-fiction. Not only this, but they also recently said that they intend to bring both water and oxygen to the moon and Mars. This is a process that is currently very expensive and limits the scope of human-based space exploration dramatically. If and when these projects come to fruition, the future will be looking bright.
By Jonathan Holowka