Energy

There’s A Plan To Start Mining The Moon By 2022

(Screenshot ESA/Youtube)

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Scientists think humans could start mining for resources on the moon within the next seven years.

Official NASA estimates suggest mining could begin as soon as 2022 with a $10 billion government investment. A mining base on the moon could be developed relatively cheaply using 3-D printing, autonomous robots, and other recently-developed technologies.

“[D]uring the Bush Administration (2001-2009), NASA entrtained the possibility of creating a ‘lunar outpost.’ Consistent with their Vision for Space Exploration (2004), the plan called for the construction of a base on the moon between 2019 and 2024,” summarized Universe Today. “One of the key aspects of this plan was the use of ISRU techniques to produce oxygen from the surrounding regolith. These plans were cancelled by the Obama administration.”

Studies show the U.S. could return to the moon within five to seven years and build a permanent base after that. Currently, NASA has no plans to return to the moon.

Johann-Dietrich Woerner, the director general of the European Space Agency (ESA), announced the agency plans to build a permanent base on the Moon by 2030. European space bureaucrats intend to use huge 3D printers to build the base using natural resources on the moon. Construction of the manned lunar base could begin within five years, Woerner said in a YouTube video.

Russia’s space agency also plans to land a person on the moon and start construction of a permanent base by 2030, according to reports published last November by TASS, the official state news agency. The country plans to assemble a 20-ton base complex in orbit around earth, then assemble a spacecraft to move the base into lunar orbit. Russia claims construction of some components has already started.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill in November, later signed by President Barack Obama, that legalized asteroid mining and granted property rights in space to private companies. Under the new law, companies own the resources they extract from asteroids, such as platinum and water. Experts at think tanks routinely noted the lack of legal recognition of property rights in space as one of the major road blocks to the development of space-based industries.

Previously, the international Outer Space Treaty declared that no nation could own property in space. The wording of the treaty is vague enough that companies want to ensure that they will own the resources they mine from asteroids before investing. The bill Congress passed would make those property rights official, at least under U.S. law.

recent wave of private companies has been encouraged by a rapidly changing legal environment to consider mining asteroids. The CEO of Deep Space Industries previously told The Daily Caller News Foundation that his goal was to mine enough asteroids to provide “all the material and equipment needed to build cities in space” in the next 30 years.

The company thinks it can sell air, building materials, water and propellant to other companies in space cheaper than launching them from Earth. It plans to launch a probe called Prospector-1 to an asteroid next year, which will rendezvous with a near-earth asteroid by 2020 to assess its value for mineral mining. This survey could be followed up with the first commercial space mining mission.

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