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Science Forum

  1. 09 Feb '14 17:50 / 2 edits
    NASA bets on private companies to exploit moon's resources:

    But I personally think this will simply never work!
    This is because the reasons given why there is "Big money on the moon" is extremely flimsy and falls apart on close scrutiny.
    For example, it says:

    "I think there is a great commercial potential on the moon," he added, citing significant reservers of helium 3, which is rare on Earth and which could be developed into a clean energy fuel ideal for nuclear fusion.

    The problem is that cost-effective nuclear fusion using helium 3 is many years away and, by the time it starts to become cost effective to both mine the Moon for it and use it to generate power on Earth, other renewables, combined with advances in off-the-grid energy storage and supergrids, would not only have become inevitably much more cost effective but would have long largely taken over the energy market and rendered any helium 3 based fusion forever completely obsolete for generating electricity on Earth. Thus, any private company investing in mining the Moon for helium 3 specifically for export to the Earth would would be wasting its money unless another use for helium 3 is found such as powering spaceships in the outer solar system because that would make more sense.

    The other flawed reason the link gives is:

    The lunar soil is also rich in coveted rare earth elements: 17 chemicals in the periodic table that are in an increased demand because they are heavily used in everyday electronics.

    The fundamental problem of that is that there is research and there will continue to be much research into designing electronics without rare Earth elements precisely because they are rare! And it would be just a mater of when, not if, research will give us extremely advanced electronics that contains no rare elements.

    Rare Earth elements in electronic devices would inevitably bump the manufacturing price up making them harder to sell to consumers thus private companies would have a huge economical incentive to avoid putting rare elements in there electronic devises if they can find a way of doing so. Any company that doesn't avoid putting rare elements in them would not be able to compete and would simply go bust. There is no special reason to think that you cannot avoid have rare chemical elements in extremely advanced electronics. In fact, there is at least one reason to think the contrary! -just think of graphene and its promise to revolutionize electronics. Graphene, of course, is made of carbon which is not rare at all!

    Thus gain, and similarly to helium 3, any private company investing in mining the Moon for rare elements specifically for export to the Earth and specifically for electronics would be wasting its money unless another use for such rare elements is found (not sure what other use ) .