The deposits of important resources on the moon are so small that there could soon be severe tension, lack of space and conflict if exploitation actually begins in the coming years. This was determined by two researchers who published their findings in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A. The problem is that there are now more and more plans for landings on the moon, but only comparatively few places that are suitable for lunar bases or resource extraction. In addition, there are no legal regulations for who gets raw materials there.
Too few raw materials
The scientific article is part of a series on the importance of the moon for astronomy in the coming decade. The satellite has recently come back into focus, especially after NASA announced that it would be sending astronauts there in a few years and setting up a space station in its orbit. The US space agency itself had officially started the hunt for the resources there a few weeks ago. On-site access is an indispensable prerequisite for construction projects on the moon, for example because it would be “absurdly expensive” to bring the iron from the earth there, as the researchers put it.
The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where the study was made, explains that the interest in the raw materials there is not new, but the urgency is now different. In addition, up to now there have been discussions about scientific uses in competition with economic resource access, or about who is actually allowed to have access. The biggest problem, however, is that there are far too few resources on the moon, which are also concentrated in a few places. There could quickly be a lack of space, the resulting conflicts and exploitation that is far too rapid. In addition, there is a risk that the deposits discovered so far will turn out to be much smaller than assumed after better-resolved analyzes. The opposite can also be the case.
Legal foundations such as the Space Treaty of 1967 are not aimed at robust protection of the deposits, they say. Nevertheless, the researchers see ways to prevent the conflicts. Potential users of the resources – for example, states and private companies – could sit down and run through worst-case scenarios in order to coordinate how these could be prevented. There are also usage scenarios on earth, for example on the oceans, that could serve as models here. To do this, however, it would first have to be determined which resources are actually involved, because in addition to physical raw materials, for example, the few locations with particularly short nights are also a scarce resource in themselves.