Huge Mass Of What Could Be Iron On Moon Could Jumpstart Investment In Space Mining

Astronaut David R. Scott beside the American flag during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971. Many companies and countries are interested in mining the moon for valuable resources, including water ice and helium-3.   ( NASA/JSC )

Earlier this month, researchers from Baylor University published a paper that revealed a large mass buried underneath the surface of the moon.

The team, using data collected during NASA's Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory and the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, found a "mass excess" in the South Pole-Aitken Basin in the far side of the natural satellite. They suggested that the mass was a leftover from the crash that created the crater a long time ago. Another possibility is oxides formed when the ancient magma ocean of the Moon cooled and solidified.

No one knows yet what it is exactly. However, the possibility of mining it in the near future has already been brought up.

Mining The Moon For Iron

In the past couple of years, there have been serious talks about extracting resources from objects in space. Asteroids, for example, might carry precious metals like gold and platinum. The Moon, meanwhile, has water ice that can be melted and then separated into oxygen and hydrogen to be used for life support and rocket propulsion.

The mysterious mass underneath the lunar surface offers new opportunities for mining. The Motley Fool noted that if the mass is made up of "oxides from the last stage of magma ocean crystallization" as the researchers predicted, then the region is a prime location to extract iron.

While not exactly gold, iron that is already in space is valuable, especially in the future as space agencies, including NASA, prepares to establish a permanent human presence outside of Earth. The publication said that transporting a single kilogram of anything, including iron, from the ground to orbit currently costs $20,000.

The bountiful reserve of iron can be used to construct entire moon bases or housing facilities on the Moon. It would get rid of the expense of importing the material from Earth.

Space Mining

According to geological surveys, there are hundreds of billions of dollars worth of untapped resources on the moon. This includes helium-3, which could provide safer nuclear energy in a fusion reactor, and rare earth metals used in modern electronics, including smartphones.

That is why companies like Moon Express and Planetary Resources are drawing up plans to start mining from the lunar surface. Countries, including Canada and Luxembourg, have also expressed interest in extracting valuable resources from asteroids, natural satellites, and other planets.

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