Mining on the moon could actually happen, someday: researcher

November 16, 2010, Missouri University of Science and Technology
moon rocks
Image via Wikipedia

While lunar mining might some day be economically feasible for countries and companies, a Missouri University of Science and Technology researcher believes strongly that mining in space is essential to the very survival of our species.

"Humanity eventually needs to live in more than just one place, other than the Earth," says Dr. Leslie Gertsch, an associate professor of geological engineering at Missouri S&T.

According to Gertsch, dirt contains a surprising amount of vital compounds, including water and maybe even "rare-earth elements" like lithium (think lithium-ion batteries).

Gertsch became fascinated with the moon while watching Apollo astronauts collecting lunar rocks on a black and white television in her family's Ohio farm house. Last year, she was paying close attention when NASA blasted a hole in the moon's surface, where more water than expected was discovered.

In addition to water, the moon has hydrogen, aluminum and iron.

Gertsch says the leading theory these days is that the moon was actually part of the Earth at one time -- that it formed in the aftermath of a collision between the Earth and a massive foreign object. So it stands to reason that the moon has some natural resources in common with the Earth.

Best practices for on the moon and beyond are still being developed, of course, and that's a big part of Gertsch's research. She knows space mining would be essential to colonizing the solar system. Explorers would need to create fuel and breathing gasses as they traveled, instead of hauling heavy supplies with them from .

"We could launch from the moon to go to Mars, for instance, at a lower cost," says Gertsch, who notes that asteroids and comets are also good candidates for space mining activities.

Explore further: Researchers discover water on the moon is widespread, similar to Earth's

Related Stories

NASA joins Google in mapping the moon

September 19, 2007

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has joined with Google Inc. in producing new higher-resolution lunar imagery and maps.

The Moon is a School for Exploration

February 15, 2007

NASA has been exploring space for nearly half a century, often with stupendous success. Yet "there's one thing we really don't know: what is the best way to explore a planet?" declares Paul D. Spudis, a senior planetary scientist ...

Mimicking the moon's surface in the basement

August 6, 2010

( -- A team of scientists used an ion beam in a basement room at Los Alamos National Laboratory to simulate solar winds on the surface of the Moon. The table-top simulation helped confirm that the Moon is inherently ...

Recommended for you

Neutron-star merger yields new puzzle for astrophysicists

January 18, 2018

The afterglow from the distant neutron-star merger detected last August has continued to brighten - much to the surprise of astrophysicists studying the aftermath of the massive collision that took place about 138 million ...

Meteoritic stardust unlocks timing of supernova dust formation

January 18, 2018

Dust is everywhere—not just in your attic or under your bed, but also in outer space. To astronomers, dust can be a nuisance by blocking the light of distant stars, or it can be a tool to study the history of our universe, ...

New technique for finding life on Mars

January 18, 2018

Researchers demonstrate for the first time the potential of existing technology to directly detect and characterize life on Mars and other planets. The study, published in Frontiers in Microbiology, used miniaturized scientific ...

North, east, south, west: The many faces of Abell 1758

January 18, 2018

Resembling a swarm of flickering fireflies, this beautiful galaxy cluster glows intensely in the dark cosmos, accompanied by the myriad bright lights of foreground stars and swirling spiral galaxies. A1758N is a sub-cluster ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (2) Nov 16, 2010
Mine the moon? Well DUH - seems like a no brainer to me. OF COURSE we should mine the moon!

What we really need to do is invest heavily into developing robots to do the work for us. Send them first to the moon, start them mining and building. When they have built some places for us to actually go THEN send humans. With robots working 24/7 I bet they could create some incredible spaces for us to live. And the same kind of robots can work for us down here. 'Cept down here we have unions...not on the moon!
1 / 5 (1) Nov 16, 2010
Moonbase 1 (Luna City, Heinlein Base, whatever) should have been the direct follow on to Apollo; instead we got Skylab, Shuttle and ISS. Bah.

And we still don't have single stage to orbit.
5 / 5 (4) Nov 16, 2010
Ummmm... Lithium isn't a rare-earth element. It's an element that is rare on Earth, but that isn't what "rare-earth element" (or REE) means. REE is a specific grouping of elements, and Lithium isn't included in that group.
3.5 / 5 (2) Nov 16, 2010
Could it be a medium rare earth?
3 / 5 (2) Nov 16, 2010
They'll have to design a Space Suit for the Canary...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.