Given the discovery of water on the Moon, suddenly the economics of lunar travel have changed dramatically for the better.
The existence of water makes human operations on the moon far more feasible in the near future given that local water can now be used to produce oxygen, drinking water, and rocket fuel.
Beyond water, the moon is suspected to be packed with natural resources which could be used locally, or even brought back to Earth if of high enough value.
One example of a potentially feasible export we know of now is Helium-3.
Moon Daily: Schmitt, a former astronaut, noted that the moon’s soil is rich in helium-3, which comes from the outer layer of the sun and is blown around the solar system by solar winds.
The element is rarely found on Earth, unlike on the moon, where it is heavily accumulated because it is pushed away by the Earth’s magnetic poles.
Helium-3 is highly sought for nuclear fusion, and though the technology is still in its infancy, the element “will ultimately be quite valuable on Earth,” Schmitt said.
“It’s not the only solution to the accelerating demand for energy that we are going to see on Earth, but it’s certainly one of the major potential solutions to that demand.”
Reserves of helium-3 on the moon are in the order of a million tons, according to some estimates, and just 25 tons could serve to power the European Union and United States for a year.
Perhaps there could be telecom or military applications as well.
While the moon’s potential won’t be unlocked for quite some time yet, the discovery of water has brought down the cost of exploration massively. Undoubtedly, every powerful nation no longer sees it as merely a scientific curiosity. The economic race for the moon has officially begun, and we shouldn’t be surprised if commercial players become increasingly interested in the moon as a source of value. Consider it the new, New World, just like America once was.