Lunar madness or going ashore? Mining on the moon is already on the horizon, and Australia may be the best country to take advantage of.
Earlier this month, a group of engineers, scientists and industry experts gathered at the Australian Space Industry Association (SIAA) forum to discuss prospects for extraction on the moon.
Central to the SIAA’s discussion was Australia’s ability to become a leader globally, with forum speakers highlighting Australia’s unique suitability for creating resources outside the atmosphere.
“Australia has a natural advantage in extracting minerals outside the Earth,” said Professor Andrew Dempster, director of the Australian Center for Space Research at the University of New South Wales.
“We have some of the world’s best tools for research, technology and automation, as well as the largest mining companies.
“While foreign teams have been looking for solutions to some of the problems associated with space mining, our project wants to explore how we could actually do so, first from a practical engineering point of view, but also closing a viable business case.”
The same week the SIAA held its forum, the Swiss multinational investment bank UBS published a report on space tourism, which estimates that the industry will grow to $ 805 billion by 2030.
READ: Innovations in space tourism can “cannibalize” the airline industry
In its analysis of infrastructure requirements for the space tourism boom, the UBS report argues that “the use of advanced robotics to build infrastructure and habitat on the moons and planets for long-term missions before manned space missions will lay the groundwork for future space production potential.”
It is this need for advanced robotics, particularly to build space mining infrastructure, that the SIAA has identified as an opportunity for Australia.
So what resources are there on the moon?
The first lines of Fr. A 2018 study on the commercialization of lunar fuel claims that “other than the Earth, the inner solar system is like a vast desert where there is little water and other volatile substances.”
This reality is the essence of the value of the moon.
Water, although very common on earth, is very scarce in space. In addition to its crucial role in the survival of animals and plants, water can be converted to oxygen and hydrogen, both of which can be used as rocket fuel.
Another significant resource contained in large quantities on the moon was helium-3. The non-radioactive isotope can be considered as a fuel for nuclear fusion, it is believed some scientists be a safe source of energy for future people.
The last major resource on the moon is rare earth metals, fifteen of which can be found in varying amounts on the moon’s surface. Play a crucial role in the production of various advanced technologies, many of which are used in space.
Which of these players can best benefit?
Not surprisingly, the best players for the expansion of the Moon are those who are leaders in the mining industry.
The expertise and history of Australia as a mining country has made ASX home to some of the world’s largest mining companies: Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO), BHP Group (ASX: BHP), Ausdrill (ASX: ASL), Northern Star (ASX: NSL) and South32 (ASX: S32).
Leading the race to the moon is Rio Tinto, which has made headlines with its stand-alone rigs, trucks and driverless trains in Pilbara.
Megan Clark, current board member of Rio Tinto, former head of CSIRO and now head of the newly formed Australian Space Agency, commented on the mining giant’s lunar ambitions.
“Rio Tinto is developing stand-alone drilling, and that’s what you’ll need to do on Mars and the Moon,” Ms. Clark says.
“As long as we drill iron ore in Pilbara, on the moon they can look for basic survival resources such as soil, water and oxygen.”
Kleas (ASX: KLE)
As Rio Tinto’s growing interest is highlighted, automation and remote control technologies will be crucial to the moon’s extraction.
Kleos, a small nanosatellite company, has expressed interest in deploying its technology to assist in the probable robotic extraction of the moon.
The company is in the process of developing precision robotics that will be used to manufacture tools and spare parts in space. Cleas believes that reducing the cost of production and repairs in orbit will be crucial for the development of infrastructure in space.
Electro Optic Systems Holdings Limited (ASX: EOS)
EOS is another Australian technology company with small capital, a potential interest in mining for a month.
The company manufactures a variety of space technologies, namely satellite software, lasers, electronics, optronics, gimbals, telescopes and beam directors, as well as precision mechanisms.
EOS’s extensive offerings include a variety of technologies for monitoring, scanning and monitoring, all of which have potential applications to assist in the development of automated lunar mines.
The company also offers orbital defense technologies aimed at protecting space infrastructure from space debris, which will become an increasing problem as more and more infrastructure enters Earth and lunar orbit.
Sky and Space Global (ASX: SAS)
Sky and Space is the London-based company ASX, which aims to launch the constellation of nanosatellites into low Earth orbit above the equator to help provide data coverage and communication networks for underserved regions along the equatorial belt.
The company could deploy the same technology in low-orbit over the moon to provide communication and data for miners and their equipment.
With the potential industry boom on the horizon and the right tools to lead the charge, Australian companies will need to monitor further developments in space mining on the moon, or, in this case, space.
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