The United Nations Outer Space Treaty doesn’t allow any country to claim ownership of the moon. It’s rich in minerals though, and if humans figure out a way to tap into it, the moon could bolster Earth’s dwindling resources.
It’s difficult to pin down an exact dollar amount for what the moon is worth. It depends on if you factor in the cost of transportation and setting up a base, but space lawyers have estimated it could be in the quadrillions.
The infographic below produced by NeoMam Studios explains how future mining on the moon might work.
One of the most valuable minerals on the moon are rare earth metals (REMs). They’re a key material in our smartphones, electric car engines, and many other electronics. Right now, China supplies about 90% of the world’s REMs. The problem is that the country estimates it only has about 20 years of reserves left, and mining for them has created a giant lake full of toxic sludge in Inner Mongolia.
If we only mined about 1 metric ton of the moon every day, then it would take 220 million years to deplete just 1% of its mass. That would not be enough to influence the moon’s orbit or the tides on Earth.
Still, we have a lot of technical challenges to solve. And what would a moon full of holes look like from Earth?
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