Our planet has a finite number of natural resources, and as a result, we’ve started to look to places like the Moon for sustainability. Precious metals such as gold play an important part not only in jewelry but also in conductivity. In this article, we explore the Moon and the potential for gold in its layers.
How Was the Moon Formed?
To get a better understanding of what’s on the Moon, it’s helpful to know where the Moon came from.
While we don’t know for sure, the most popular theory is that a Mars-sized planet crashed into our Earth billions of years ago. The Moon formed out of this collision, which is why many metals and minerals on the Earth are also on our cosmic neighbor.
Are any of those metals or minerals of the expensive kind?
What Is the Moon Made Up Of?
The Moon has a few different types of rock among its layers. The rocks in the lighter areas of the Moon’s surface contain several of Earth’s lighter elements, including oxygen, silicon, aluminum, calcium, magnesium, iron, and titanium.
Digging a little deeper than the Moon’s crust, scientists have discovered that the Moon does indeed have a number of precious metals such as gold and silver.
How Do We Know There’s Gold on the Moon?
A few key measures in recent history have led to breakthroughs about what’s hiding out on the Moon.
The Apollo Program
We finally got a chance to give the Moon a closer look when we landed on its surface in July of 1969. Through the six Apollo missions, astronauts were able to bring hundreds of pounds of lunar rock back to Earth for study.
These samples led to the discovery that the Moon’s composition essentially matches that of Earth’s. However, these surface samples had little in the way of precious metals like gold and platinum.
While on the Moon, astronauts also placed seismometers to measure moonquake activity. These measurements, along with the calculation of the Moon’s density, have revealed much about the elements that exist below the lunar surface.
Lunar Crater Observer and Sensing Satellite
In 2009, NASA intentionally crashed a booster rocket into the lunar surface, carving out a crater. A second craft followed close behind to record and measure the blast.
This explosion kicked up not only water but revealed precious metals like gold and platinum. It makes sense that these metals that bond well with iron would mostly be in the iron-rich mantle.
How Much Gold Is There on the Moon?
To our knowledge, the Moon has considerably less gold than the Earth does. This is only partly due to its smaller size, as somehow the Earth has collected far more gold than the Moon did.
Even so, there is speculation that a significant amount of gold could be lying in wait under the lunar surface.
It’s possible that some of the asteroids that have made their way to the Moon would have carried gold with them as they traveled through space. Upon impact with the Moon, the rare metal would have sunk far below the surface.
Is Moon Mining in the Future?
Space is certainly a consideration when you take a look at the future of mining. That being said, it would cost an astronomical amount to send the necessary equipment to the lunar surface and even begin the process.
While no one has developed a plan yet, nations are looking towards the Moon for a potential lunar gold rush. There are some theories on how the process could be possible.
Robots could do a majority of the mining for gold and other important materials, significantly reducing risk factors.
With the discovery of water mentioned earlier, there is greater potential for long-term habitation for humans on the Moon. Setting up a lunar base would allow individuals to live on the lunar surface to build and maintain equipment.
3D printing could allow for faster construction of machines and equipment needed for mining. It would still be necessary for regular transport to the Moon to drop off supplies and take mined metals to Earth.
Companies like SpaceX are hard at work solving the problem of launch costs by looking into reusable rockets and more efficient fuels.
Lunar Red tape
In 1967, just a few short years before man would reach the Moon for the first time, the United Nations created the Outer Space Treaty. This treaty states that no nation can claim ownership of any part of the Moon.
The treaty does not mention any laws surrounding private ownership, leading to questions and confusion about what corporations can do.
Side Effects of Lunar Mining
There are many implications of mining the Moon from an ethical and environmental standpoint. We all have a vested interest in the Moon. It has been a part of our culture since the beginning of the age of man.
There is a desire to ensure the Moon is looked upon the same way by future generations as well. No one wants to see a Moon full of holes.
Even if mining does happen on the Moon, the good news is that it would have little impact.
With a mass of 73 quadrillion tons, even removing 1 million metric tons of rock daily would take 220 million years to deplete 1% of that mass. That 1% would not be significant enough to affect the Moon’s orbit or tides on Earth.
Is There Bling on Other Worlds?
While there are many unexplored worlds even in our Solar System, there are a few that have piqued interest.
The Psyche asteroid, located between Mars and Jupiter, contains a massive amount of gold and other metals.
Although scientists have not been able to pierce the thick atmospheres of Uranus and Neptune, there is a belief that diamonds rain down on those worlds like water does here.
The Earth is far from the only world in our Solar System with precious metals like gold. Even our Moon has enough gold to spark the interest of mining operations on its surface. No matter how much gold there may be, it’s essential that we preserve the nature of our Moon for future generations to enjoy.