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The race to the moon is heating up as lunar resources could top $1 quadrillion in value

Filip De Mott   

The race to the moon is heating up as lunar resources could top $1 quadrillion in value
  • India made history Wednesday as the first nation to land a spacecraft on the moon's south pole.
  • Days earlier, Russia's space agency said "the race for the development of the natural resources of the moon has begun."

"To the moon" is no longer a rallying call just for the crypto crowds, as a global race to explore the celestial body heats up.

On Wednesday, India made history as the first nation to land a spacecraft on the moon's south pole, an unexplored region of icy craters and minerals.

The Chandrayaan-3 mission was India's second attempt, and its success stood in stark contrast to the failures of other countries in reaching the pole. Just days prior to the touchdown, Russia's Luna-25 vessel crash landed when approaching the surface.

Despite Russia's botched mission, Yury Borisov, chief of the state space agency, said that returning to the moon was a matter of national interest.

"This is about ensuring defensive capabilities and achieving technological sovereignty," he told Russia-24. "Today, it is also of a practical value because, of course, the race for the development of the natural resources of the moon has begun."

China and the US are also competitors in this lunar race, as the two nations share similar plans to reach the south pole, which is said to be rich in water.

Water could be a source of fuel for spacecraft, allowing the moon to act as a layover for missions to Mars and other areas of deep space. Water would also be necessary for any people living on a future colony.

Other resources on the moon could make mining lucrative. Estimates of the value of the moon's commodities range widely.

In 2015, NASA said the moon holds "hundreds of billions of dollars" of untapped resources, calling it a potential "lunar gold rush."

In addition to water, NASA pointed to helium-3, which could be used in nuclear fusion. It also noted rare earth metals like lanthanides, scandium, and yttrium, which are used in electronics and mostly produced in China.

Meanwhile, estimates cited in the Daily Mail last year valued the moon's water at more than $200 billion, its helium at $1.5 quadrillion, and its metals at $2.5 trillion. Besides the rare earths, other minerals include basalt, iron, quartz, silicon, platinum, palladium, rhodium, and titanium.

The moon isn't the only celestial body loaded with lucrative elements. A 173-mile-wide asteroid known as 16 Psyche is thought to be made up of gold, iron, and nickel. The ore on the asteroid has been estimated to be worth about $10 quintillion. Another asteroid, Davida, is thought to be worth $27 quintillion.

The 2015 US Commercial Space Launch Competitiveness Act gives companies the legal right to the materials mined in space. And firms have already sprung up to test technology that could theoretically make this work.




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